Adidas Eurocamp - Day 2

Kenneth Faried talks changes in Denver, first round playoff exit at adidas Eurocamp

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TREVISO, Italy — Kenneth Faried was in attendance for Day 2 of adidas Eurocamp, and was used by veteran head coach and current Timberwolves executive Flip Saunders to demonstrate proper post techniques to the camp’s international players.

Faried suffered an ankle injury near the end of the regular season that wasn’t severe enough to keep him from playing once the playoffs began, but it did have a real impact on his level of production. Faried not being 100 percent, along with the late-season loss of Danilo Gallinari were legitimate factors in the Nuggets losing in the first round of the playoffs to an up and coming Golden State Warriors team.

The early playoff exit was reportedly one of several reasons that the team considered before parting ways with George Karl, who had been the head coach in Denver for nine seasons and was awarded the Coach of the Year trophy for guiding the Nuggets to 57 wins in the season that was just completed.

Despite the team’s success, Faried wasn’t surprised by the decision to separate with Karl, and plans on moving forward with whomever the Nuggets hire to replace him.

“I’m not surprised about anything in this league anymore,” Faried said. “It’s a business and things happen for a reason, so I’m just focused on what I’ve got to do on the court and leave all the business side to my management, my agent, and the ownership of the Nuggets. I’m going to stay out of all of that.”

As for that postseason loss to the Warriors, Faried believes that his injury and that of Gallinari’s were logical reasons that Denver struggled in the series.

“Well, we lost Gallo, and I guess we lost me in a sense,” he said. “It took me a while to come back and start to get going like I usually get going, and I still was lingering a bit with the tear in my ankle. It was really hard for me to give my all that I usually give in each and every game.”

In addition to relieving their award-winning coach of his duties, the Nuggets also lost their GM (who was the winner of the Executive of the Year award) in Masai Ujiri, who left on his own to pursue a lucrative offer with the Raptors.

Faried said his relationship with Ujiri during his time in Denver was a positive one, and appreciated his approach to putting a team in place.

“He was a nice guy,” Faried said of Ujiri. “He was polite, respectful, and just being around him, he really cared about winning and developing the team so guys can play in a system and we didn’t have to worry about ‘oh, this guy got that big money contract.’ He just wanted us to go out there and play and have fun. We had no All-Stars, so it was interesting to see how we played together.”

Much was made of the Nuggets success with this model, but Faried wasn’t sure if his team did well enough to prove it could work on a championship level.

“I mean, it worked, but we did get kicked out of the first round of the playoffs,” Faried said. “So you really can’t say. If we were in the Finals and we won a championship, then I think a lot of other teams would have done it. But you can’t really say.”

Faried said he’s just about fully recovered from his ankle injury, and was seen throwing down a few dunks during some downtime between the camp’s morning drills. While there was a small sense of uneasiness from Faried about the new direction the team might be taking with its recent changes, he seemed to be taking it all in with the best attitude possible.

“I can’t control any of that,” Faried said. “I’m just going to play my hardest for whoever the coach is, and hopefully it’ll turn out for the best.”

Zaza Pachulia steals ball, starts break, blows open layup against Suns (VIDEO)

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Zaza Pachulia is riding the Golden State Warriors train for all it’s worth, in the good and the bad. In November, Pachulia hit a mid-range jumper and did a horse dance. If that was the zenith, Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns was the nadir.

Particularly because Pachulia blew a breakaway layup in which he definitely should have scored.

Instead, the Warriors big man stuffed the ball between the iron and the backboard, clumsily squandering his opportunity:

*Sad trombone*

Russell Westbrook’s no-look, two-hand, behind-his-head pass ignites Thunder break

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Russell Westbrook was just himself — hustling, attacking, and getting his fifth triple-double in a row Sunday night against the Pelicans.

But the play of the night didn’t get him any points or an assist. It was Westbrook hustling, getting to the floor to get a loose ball, then making the showtime pass to start a Globetrotters-like fast break that ended with an Andre Roberson dunk.

Westbrook had an impressive dunk of his own.

NBA VP Kiki VanDeWeghe on “unnaturual acts:” “Our rules are for every player”

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The NBA has tried to crack down on “unnatural acts” — players flailing body parts trying to draw a foul call.

At the heart of that is Golden State’s Draymond Green, who picked up a flagrant foul for the unnatural act of getting his leg high enough to kick James Harden in the face Thursday night. Green fired back at the league, saying in part, “It’s funny how you can tell me how I get hit and how my body is supposed to react. I didn’t know the league office was that smart when it came to body movements.” Green’s argument is that he was fouled in the air and the high leg was the natural act of him trying to keep his balance. (Doesn’t matter, it’s a reckless act and if you kick someone in the face you should get a flagrant foul. Also, try explaining the kick on Marquese Chriss on Saturday that way.)

Former All-Star NBA player as well as coach Kiki VanDeWeghe is now an NBA vice president and the guy who is the decision maker on these reviews and fouls. He spoke with Sam Amick of the USA Today about how those unnatural act rules are applied.

“Our rules are for every player,” VanDeWeghe told USA TODAY Sports. “We want each play judged according to the rules, as best possible, and the rules applied fairly across our whole league. That’s very important to us. We don’t make exceptions for players. They are applied to everybody.

“In Draymond’s particular case (against the Houston Rockets on Thursday), he had an arm flail which struck the player (James Harden) in the neck-head area. And then in addition to that, he had a kick up above the head of the defender. As he brought his leg down, his heel hit him in the face. It wouldn’t matter what player we’re talking about (it’s a foul)….

“Most of these are done to draw the attention of the referees. We noticed an uptick in these last year, and they needed to be addressed by the competition committee.”

While Green feels singled out — “marked” is what he tweeted — VanDeWeghe noted that competition committee included owners, coaches, GMs, people from the players union, and a lot of people with playing experience, who all sat down as a group and studied what is and is not an “unnatural act.” As Amick noted, it isn’t just Green who gets hit with these penalties, although he gets the headlines: Boston’s Marcus Smart was given a Flagrant One for his kick to the groin of the Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; Thursday LeBron James was given a technical foul for his blow to the head of the Clippers’ Alan Anderson.

So long as Green continues to make these acts — and the kick to Chriss Saturday suggests they are not slowing down — the crackdown will continue.

Watch Raptors PG Kyle Lowry throw a full-court alley oop to Pascal Siakam

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Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is having an excellent year for the Eastern Conference Finals hopefuls, and part of that is due to his vision. On Saturday, Lowry threw a full-court lob to Pascal Siakam that was mighty impressive.

After a missed shot in the middle of the third quarter by the Atlanta Hawks, Lowry gathered the rebound on the left block and quickly turned his eyes downcourt.

Siakam, the No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, was streaking toward the Raptors basket and behind the Hawks defense.

Lowry took advantage with a long-distance heave after one dribble at the free-throw line, and Pascal was able to gather and softly lay the ball up at the rim.