Kenneth Faried focused on defense this season

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Last season Kenneth Faried came in on a high — he had been the full Manimal for Team USA at the World Cup, and he rode that to a four-year, $50 million extension. But while Coach K liked and knew how to use Faried, Brian Shaw was a different story. Shaw asked Faried to do things on offense he couldn’t do well, kept changing his role, and the coach was understandably frustrated with Faried’s defense, so he jerked his minutes around. With that Faried’s trademark energy came and went.

Faried looked better under interim coach Melvin Hunt (after Shaw was let go), averaging 15.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and shooting 52.5 percent in the final 19 games of the season. Faried showed off an improved post-up game and that fueled his famous energy on the glass and around the court. New Nuggets coach Mike Malone needs to harness that Faried, the one Coach K found (although that USA team was loaded with other players that were a higher priority for defenses, giving Faried space to operate). If the Nuggets are going to get out and run more (as Malone has said) then Faried should thrive, he can finish the break or sprint to the post and be effective either way.

Faried said his focus this season is on the other end of the ball. From Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post.

“My defense, I’ve focused on that,” Faried said in a phone interview from Johannesburg, where he played in NBA Africa Game 2015 on Saturday. “I’ve been watching film on guys that I consider my toughest matchups, and I’ve been able to dissect them so that when the season comes around I’m able to guard those players — and become the player I want to be, and that’s hopefully defensive player of the year one day and first-team all-defense.”

 

Faried has the physical tools to be a solid defender, but the manic energy that served him well on the other end of the court was both missing and just misguided on defense. It improved last season, and if Faried can continue to turn that around he becomes a much more valuable player.

And a more valuable trade asset.

Faried was shopped around all summer, and you can be sure Denver isn’t done seeing if there is a suitor for him. The Nuggets want a locker room culture change and moving Ty Lawson was just step one, Faried could be on the move as well. He makes a lot of money and is an undersized four — one who has started to show he can be more than an energy glue guy — and the Nuggets think there will be a market for him.

In the past, when Faried has been on the trade block his play has noticeably dipped — he’s not been able to compartmentalize his life and keep the off-the-court stuff from impacting his play on it. Maybe he has matured and gotten used to that side of the NBA business.

Malone got the most out of DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento, he may be able to do the same for Faried. If so his trade value goes up — as will the difficulty of the decision for the Nuggets because maybe he will fit with their future.

Especially if his defense improves.

Lakers, DeMarcus Cousins reportedly may talk new contract next summer

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Sunday, the Lakers waived DeMarcus Cousins to clear out a roster space for Markieff Morris. Cousins was signed last July to be the team’s starting center, but he tore his ACL in training and has not stepped on the court this season. It wasn’t personal, it was business, and under the terms of the CBA Cousins can continue his rehab in the Lakers’ practice facilities.

Cousins may be officially gone, but he could return next season to the Lakers, reports Joe Varden at The Athletic.

But the Lakers could re-sign him this summer, something both sides have expressed interest in pursuing, sources said.

This would be another one-year minimum contract deal, and it makes sense for both sides. Dwight Howard is a free agent and, after a resurgent (but not elite) season in Los Angeles, likely will get offers for more than the Lakers can pay him. JaVale McGee has a $4.2 million player option. Whatever McGee decides, the Lakers will be looking for another big man (and maybe two). Cousins could step right in.

What he can offer on the court coming off a torn Achilles and ACL remains to be seen, but the Lakers will not ask a lot of their centers. Cousins is a two-time All-NBA, four-time All-Star player who should still be able to give the Lakers some solid minutes in the paint.

The Lakers will keep their options open, but don’t be surprised if the two sides reunite.

Vanessa Bryant suing helicopter company after crash that killed Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Bryant and Gianna Bryant
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Ever since Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant died in a helicopter crash last month, we’ve been seeking answers about what went wrong during the flight piloted by Ara Zobayan. After all, Kobe Bryant had made helicopter rides such a normal part of his life.

Now, Vanessa Bryant – Kobe’s wife and Gianna’s mother – is suing the company that operated the helicopter for wrongful death.

Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times:

The complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Island Express Helicopters and Island Express Holding Corp. alleged that pilot Ara Zobayan, who also died in the crash, failed “to use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft” and was “negligent.”

“Defendant Island Express Helicopters’ breach of its duty and negligence caused the injuries and damages complained of herein and Plaintiffs’ deceased, Kobe Bryant, was killed as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan for which Defendant Island Express Helicopters is vicariously liable in all respects,” the lawsuit said.

Report: Ben Simmons back injury “isn’t a day-to-day thing”

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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the back injury for Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons “isn’t a day-to-day thing”.

Simmons missed the Sixers first game following the All-Star break on Thursday. He then left Saturday’s game in Milwaukee after playing just 4:44.

Over the weekend, Philadelphia ruled Simmons out for Monday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks and said he would undergo further evaluation. Per Wojnarowski’s report, that evaluation is ongoing and a course of treatment is yet to be decided upon.

Expect Philadelphia to lean on Raul Neto, Alec Burks and Shake Milton as primary ballhandlers while Simmons is out. None possess the size and skill combination of Simmons, but all have had moments throughout their careers. Neto drew the start in place of Simmons on Thursday. Burks was acquired at the trade deadline to give the team much-needed bench depth. Milton has flashed at time in his second season, after beginning his NBA career on a Two-Way contract.

Philadelphia loses Simmons while in a battle with the Miami Heat for homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The fifth-place 76ers are 1.5 games behind the Heat for the fourth seed, and two games ahead of the sixth-place Indiana Pacers.

Pacers: Jeremy Lamb suffers torn ACL, torn meniscus, fracture

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Kobe Bryant making two free throws after tearing his Achilles was one of the greatest moments of his legendary career.

On a day Bryant was honored, we learned Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb made a similarly gutsy pair of free throws during Indiana’s loss to the Raptors yesterday.

Pacers release:

During the second quarter of the Pacers game at Toronto on Sunday, Indiana Pacers forward Jeremy Lamb sustained a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, a torn lateral meniscus and a lateral femoral condylar fracture.

He will undergo surgery on a date to be determined. He will be out the remainder of the season. Any further updates will be provided after surgery.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Lamb misses all of next season. This is just a devastating set of calamities.

At least Lamb has a guaranteed $10.5 million salary each of the next two seasons.

Indiana (sixth place, 33-24) will have an even tougher time winning a playoff series now. The Pacers could challenge in the first round, but they’ll almost certainly be significant underdogs.

They have depth at shooting guard, for what that’s worth. Victor Oladipo just returned. Justin Holiday is a solid reserve. Finding his lane at point guard, Malcolm Brogdon can move off the ball when T.J. McConnell or Aaron Holiday plays point guard.