Nuggets plan on opening contract extension talks with Kenneth Faried this summer

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It wasn’t long ago that Kenneth Faried was considered untouchable by the Nuggets front office, due to the rare combination of athletic skill set and the high-energy style he consistently plays.

But a new GM took control prior to the start of last season, and Faried was off to a bit of a slow start. That caused his name to pop up in trade talks as the deadline approached, but wisely, Denver held onto what’s likely to be a critical piece of the team’s future.

Faried is under contract for next season, and the Nuggets can retain his rights as a restricted free agent by tendering a small qualifying offer the year after that. There’s not necessarily any hurry to lock him up with a long-term deal, but it appears as though the team will try to do so this summer.

From Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post:

The Nuggets plan to make Kenneth Faried a long-term fixture of their future by opening contract extension talks with the power forward and his agent, Thad Foucher, this summer.

“We’ll talk to his representation,” Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly told the Post. ” I think Kenneth is happy here. I think he’s really embraced what (Coach) Brian (Shaw) is trying to instill. Those are the type of guys that deserve to get paid.” …

Faried should be in line for a huge contract, probably under the $14-22 million a year the game’s top power forwards make, but more than say, the $9.5 million of a player such as Atlanta’s Paul Millsap.

The advantage the Nuggets have here is that players are often eager to sign this first extension after their rookie deal, in order to get that huge sum of guaranteed dollars in place as quickly as possible.

But Faried is not yet a max player, or even one that the team can justify paying as much as its star point guard Ty Lawson, whose deal averages $12 million per season. Faried is likely to be offered Larry Sanders-type money, somewhere in the four-year, $44 million range.

If Faried negotiates an opt-out after three years, and the Nuggets step up with an offer of $11 million per year, it’s tough to imagine a scenario where something doesn’t get done this offseason between the two parties.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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Did Russell Westbrook get mad at Steven Adams for not taking potential triple-double-clinching shot? (video)

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Russell Westbrook chases triple-doubles.

That hardly makes him unique. He’s just close enough to the feat more often than other players, so he chases them more often.

But he still chases them.

Late in the Thunder’s 108-91 win over the Warriors last night, Westbrook was heading toward his final line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates shot off his passes on three of Oklahoma City’s final four possessions before he took a seat (including one assist). The exception came when he passed to Steven Adams, who passed rather than shoot – clearly upsetting Westbrook.

Was Westbrook mad because he missed his chance at a triple-double? Maybe.

Was Westbrook mad because Adams passed as the shot clock neared expiration? Maybe.

It could be both!

Watch Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s bench. They clearly found something funny.