The Nuggets are a mess, one that makes you think Brian Shaw could be in the firing line next summer, if not before. This was a team first built for George Karl’s high-speed attack that has struggled as Shaw has tried to install a more systematic approach and asked his guys to play more traditional roles.
That includes the team’s biggest star Kenneth Faried, who looked great as an energy guy, a glue guy doing the dirty work for Team USA this summer but isn’t the kind of shot creator you can easily build a franchise around. Except that the Nuggets are paying him like that now — he got a contract extension of four years, $50 million (after the team leaked that it was five years, $60 million, numbers not allowed under the current CBA).
What’s more, Faried is not popular in the locker room reports Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN, in a brilliant piece talking about the Nuggets collapse in recent years.
Several sources around the league insist the Nuggets’ hand was forced with regard to Faried. After the signing of (J.J.) Hickson to a three-year, approximately $16 million contract soon after (GM Tim) Connelly’s arrival, the sense was the bouncy big man was insurance against Faried’s departure in free agency in 2014. Faried was a fan favorite in Denver, but multiple sources with knowledge of the Nuggets’ thinking maintain the team “isn’t crazy about him,” particularly Shaw. But with Faried’s boffo showing last summer with Team USA and a loyal following in Denver, the media-conscious Nuggets caved, adding yet another imperfect 4-man to their lot.
“[Faried] is a helluva player and plays hard, but he isn’t well liked [in the organization],” a league source said. “That gets glossed over. He says crazy s—. He thinks he’s the guy, and other guys take exception to his contract.”
Let the denials from the organization begin in 5…4…3…
Faried and Shaw certainly had a rough start to their relationship, something Faried discussed with ProBaketballTalk a week ago.
“Before, last year, we’d butt heads because certain philosophies he was going with I didn’t want to obey them or abide by them. I wanted to do my own thing and play more minutes. I was frustrated,” Faried said. “But as the season went on, it sucked because guys went down, but we had to come together and click in order for us to win the number of games we won last year.
“It helped a lot going into this year, with me coming back from (Team) USA and the things I did there, he has even more confidence in me and plays me more minutes and make sure I’m on the court to help the team and make an impact.”
Actually Faried’s minutes, points, and efficiency are all down slightly from last season.
That said, in a market where Faried is very popular with the fans — we all love the hustle guy —it is the player that the team’s owners will back over the coach. It almost doesn’t matter what the people in the organization think.
Things are bad in Denver, the 2-7 Nuggets are struggling nightly with a bottom 10 offense and defense. The Knicks just snapped a seven-game losing streak against them. A rash of injuries last season disguised the obvious: When you let GM Masai Ujiri and coach George Karl go, you’re going to take a step backward.