Nuggets coach challenges Kenneth Faried: Play hard, get more shots

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DENVER (AP) Kenneth Faried instantly perked up when his new coach proclaimed the Denver Nuggets would return to their uptempo roots.

The athletic forward nicknamed Manimal can be Manimal again.

Faried is at his best when he’s free to crash the boards, fly around the court and get the crowd – along with his teammates – revved up by his all-out hustle. He felt a bit muzzled in years past, but not so under coach Michael Malone, who believes he’s about to unleash Manimal 2.0.

This version even comes complete with a burgeoning inside game and a work-in-progress jumper. Maybe a little 3-point range, too.

“I don’t want him to forget who he is, the core of Kenneth Faried. That’s a guy who plays harder than anybody else on the floor,” said Malone, who is trying to get Denver back on track after missing the playoffs the last two seasons under Brian Shaw. “If he can do that for us, we’ll reward him and give him touches where he can showcase his offensive development.”

Faried views himself as one of the team’s franchise players, especially nowadays after his best friend Ty Lawson was dealt to Houston. That trade was a tough blow for him, losing the speedy point guard who could feed Faried so effortlessly for those rim-rattling dunks.

“Got to live with it,” said Faried, who averaged 12.6 points and 8.9 rebounds last season.

This helps – the emergence of rookie playmaker Emmanuel Mudiay.

“I’m excited to see how he throws those lobs or pinpoints those passes when he goes through lane and drops them off, just like Ty used to do,” said Faried, a first-round pick in 2011 out of Morehead State. “His court vision is amazing.”

Faried was all smiles earlier in the week. That hasn’t always been the case the last two seasons, when he really wasn’t sure what his role entailed. This season, he knows that he’ll be an integral part of Malone’s team along with Mudiay, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari.

“I’m going to continue to be myself and continue to be the Manimal and try to lead this team by being the Manimal,” said Faried, whose team is coming off a 30-52 season. “I believe we have a chance to make the playoffs this year. … I don’t care what anybody has to stay about it.”

For a change, he feels secure. The 25-year-old Faried knows there are no trade rumors hovering over his head.

“Either you learn how to deal with it or let it defeat you,” Faried said of trade speculation. “At times, I thought, `OK this is going to defeat me.’ Now that I’ve grown, and the Nuggets said, `You’re not going anywhere,’ I’m OK.”

Better than OK, even. He’s already in regular-season shape, checking in at a trim 215 pounds. His legs feel fresh as well, which is understandable.

Before the 2014-15 season, he arrived at training camp after guiding Mike Krzyzewski’s U.S. squad to a championship at the Basketball World Cup. That experience was tiring, but taught him how to be a better leader, which is one of his goals this season.

“Not vocally, but more (through) action,” he said.

Memo to Malone: Faried wouldn’t mind being given the green light to attempt more 3-pointers, either, since he’s been working on them. He went 1-for-6 at a Team USA exhibition game from that distance in August.

“A lot of them were in and out,” cracked Faried, who is 1 for 11 in his career from 3-point land. “Steph Curry didn’t make every shot in the playoffs, did he? Klay Thompson, either. Got to get better. That’s what I’m doing.”

Malone is on board with Faried hoisting more shots – within reason, he quickly cautioned.

“I’m not a big fan of the 3-point shot with Kenneth,” Malone said. “But I’ll tell you this: I believe in rewarding the big man. If he’s doing all the dirty work, we owe it to him giving him the ball every once in a while.”

Donovan says Lonzo Ball’s recovery has ‘been really slow’

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
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Watching the finger-pointing and heated moments between Bulls’ defenders on Wednesday night as Devin Booker carved them up to the tune of 51 points, one thought was how much they miss Lonzo Ball‘s defense at the point of attack.

Ball had a second surgery on his knee back in September and the team said he would be out at “least a few months.” It’s coming up on a few months, so Donovan gave an update on Ball and his recovery, and the news was not good for Bulls’ fans. Via Rob Schaefer at NBC Sports Chicago:

“It’s been really slow,” Donovan said when asked about Ball’s rehab. “I’m just being honest.”

Donovan added Ball has not necessarily suffered a setback. The Bulls knew this would be an arduous process. But he also noted that Ball is “not even close” to being cleared for contact or on-court work.

Ball had his first knee surgery in January and the expectation was he would be back and 100% by the playoffs. However, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. Things didn’t improve over the summer, which led to the second surgery. How much do they miss him? The Bulls were 22-13 with him last season, and he averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, a game. However, it was his defense that was most crucial.

There is no timeline for his return. Which is not good news for Chicago.

PBT Podcast: Timberwolves without KAT, get Luka some help

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Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate this season, and now they will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for around a month with a calf strain. Just how much trouble are the Timberwolves in?

Corey Robinson from NBC Sports and myself discuss that and then get into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Team USA vs. Team World matchup — does Evan Fournier get the world team in trouble? Who guards whom?

From there, it’s time for Corey’s Jukebox and some New Orleans jazz for Zion Williamson. Some Mavericks’ talk follows that — Dallas has put a big load on the shoulders of Luka Doncic, and while he’s playing like an MVP it’s a long-term concern for the Mavericks and their fans.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron calls out reporters for asking him about Kyrie Irving but not Jerry Jones

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Within days of Kyrie Irving being suspended by the Nets in the wake of a Tweet promoting an antisemitic film (and his initial refusal to apologize for it), Irving’s former teammate LeBron James was asked about it. He had to deal with the controversy, saying, “I don’t condone any hate to any kind. To any race.”

At the end of his press conference Wednesday night after the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers, LeBron scolded the assembled press for not asking him about the 1957 photo that surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones outside North Little Rock High School while white students protested the integration of the school when they had been quick to ask about Irving.

“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, `I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a Black man, as a Black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.

“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, `Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

Irving and LeBron were teammates in Cleveland and won a ring together, there was a direct connection (plus Irving had been linked to the Lakers in trade rumors over the summer).

However, there was a connection between LeBron and the Cowboys as well. LeBron was for many years a very public Cowboys fan (despite growing up in Browns territory). It came up as recently as October, when LeBron was on Instagram Live promoting his HBO show with Maverick Carter “The Shop” and he said he had stopped rooting for the Cowboys in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, “There’s just a lot of things that were going on when guys were kneeling. Guys were having freedom of speech and wanting to do it in a very peaceful manner…. The organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, then you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”

When asked about the photo, Jones said he was a curious 14-year-old who was watching and didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment or situation.

Watch Russell Westbrook drain two buzzer-beaters against Blazers

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The Portland Trail Blazers had to know it was not their night when Russell Westbrook knocked down a buzzer-beating step-back 3-pointer just before the half.

Westbrook wasn’t done, he had one more buzzer-beater in him at the end of the third.

Westbrook wasn’t the only guy in the building draining half-courters — for the second-straight game a Laker fan knocked down a half-court shot, this time to win $25,000.

It was a good night all around for the Lakers and their fans at home against the shorthanded Trail Blazers. They got 31 points from LeBron James, plus 27 points and 12 boards from Anthony Davis. Austin Reaves added in 22, and the Lakers took control in the third and cruised in for a needed win.