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.”

Report: NBA won’t hold draft until after season

NBA draft
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The NBA draft is scheduled for June 25. Most expect that date to change as the coronavirus pandemic causes postponements around the world.

Apparently, the draft will come after the NBA season – whether the season is completed in a modified format or just cancelled.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I think everybody in the league feels it’s almost impossible to have a draft if you still have a season that’s ongoing.

You can’t have a draft while teams are still playing. You can’t have some teams able to do trades because their season’s done and then some teams unable to do trades because they’re still playing.

It doesn’t strike me as difficult to hold the draft before the season ends. Teams wouldn’t be allowed to trade current players. The restriction would apply across the board, just like the interrupted pre-draft process. That’s not ideal, but compromises must be made amid this chaos.

Importantly, holding the draft sooner could appeal to both sides of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

It’d be an opportunity to hold a revenue-producing TV event. Obviously, drafted players wouldn’t attend a mass gathering. But with sports fans starved for content, people would watch the selections. A handshake with NBA commissioner Adam Silver is only a small part of the festivities.

The National Basketball Players Association should also push for an earlier draft. Prospects want information sooner so they can prepare for their next step – whether that’s the NBA, returning to college or playing overseas. That said, the union has bigger priorities than potential future members.

So, it’s easy to see why postponing the draft has gained momentum, even if that’s not a no-brainer solution.

Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell headline televised NBA video-game tournament

Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell
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The NBA season isn’t returning any time soon.

So, the closest thing you’ll get to live basketball on television is a video-game tournament between NBA players. The bracket has been revealed.

The Boardroom:

1. Kevin Durant (Nets)

2. Trae Young (Hawks)

3. Hassan Whiteside (Trail Blazers)

4. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)

5. Devin Booker (Suns)

6. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)

7. Zach LaVine (Bulls)

8. Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)

9. Domantas Sabonis (Pacers)

10. Deandre Ayton (Suns)

11. DeMarcus Cousins (previously Lakers)

12. Michael Porter Jr. (Nuggets)

13. Rui Hachimura (Wizards)

14. Patrick Beverley (Clippers)

15. Harrison Barnes (Kings)

16. Derrick Jones Jr. (Heat)

I have questions:

  • How does Hassan Whiteside have the same rating as Donovan Mitchell and a higher rating Devin Booker?
  • Does being extremely online bode well for Kevin Durant?
  • Is Donovan Mitchell, who spent his coronavirus isolation playing video games, in the best game shape?
  • Will Zach LaVine redeem himself?
  • Will players use their own teams? If so, will Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton both use the Suns, Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley both use the Clippers? If not, the most interesting aspect of this tournament – to non-esports aficionados – could be reading way too much into which teams players pick.

Jeff Van Gundy predicts NBA will cancel rest of season

NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy
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Kirk Herbstreit sent waves through college football when he predicted the upcoming season will be canceled due to coronavirus.

Now, NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy is sharing a similar assessment of the sport he covers.

Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:

He doesn’t believe the 2019-20 season will resume.

“I understand how you can start again, but what’s the plan if the next person gets sick, like another Rudy Gobert-type of situation, we’re going to play through it? We’re going to cancel it again? That to me is why I don’t see any of these things taking place.

“I have no idea how they can pull off the season, and I have no idea what’s going to happen, and I hope next season isn’t impacted.”

Van Gundy is spot-on with his warning about another sick person. Can the NBA effectively test players, coaches, referees, etc. then keep them isolated? Until a vaccine is available, that’s practically essential. A single case of coronavirus would undermine the entire operation.

Holding games in one location would reduce risk. It wouldn’t eliminate risk.

Remember, the NBA planned to continue games (without fans present) until Gobert’s positive test necessitated a shutdown. Controlling coronavirus is far easier said than done.

I don’t share Van Gundy’s concern about next being impacted, though.

Next season will likely be impacted. Multiple future seasons could be impacted.

That’s worth the tradeoff.

The NBA is approaching its playoffs – the most lucrative and compelling portion of the season. It’d be a mistake to throw away the postseason just to keep future regular seasons on track.

After all, haven’t we spent the last year discussing declining interest in the regular season? A shorter regular season next season would be a perfectly acceptable tradeoff in order to hold this season’s playoffs. Heck, the NBA could shorten multiple upcoming regular seasons as it phases back toward a normal calendar.

Van Gundy is right to express caution about resuming play. The NBA shouldn’t restart anytime soon. But no matter when it’s safe to hold games again, the league should finish the season. Figure out future seasons from there.

China again delays basketball season due to coronavirus

Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) chairman Yao Ming
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As the NBA contemplates how and when to resume its season, China – on an earlier coronavirus timeline – can serve as a model.

The Chinese Basketball Association suspended its season in February and planned to resume in April. Then May. Now, it’ll be even later.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

In a setback to the resumption of professional sports, the Chinese government issued an order Tuesday delaying the restart of the Chinese Basketball Association and other group sporting events, according to documents obtained by ESPN.

CBA teams have been informing players that they still intend to return to play and hope to have more clarity in a few weeks, sources told ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

There’s probably a bigger lesson here about not blindly trusting messaging from China.

For the NBA, it’s a grim warning about the difficultly of restarting a basketball season amid an ongoing pandemic.