As teams around the NBA examined his availability, Kenneth Faried looked past the Denver Nuggets and into the swath of intrigued franchises that had gone revealing information of potential discussions in a desperate attempt. Reading about interested parties within the league inspired him, but only to the extent of privately reaffirming that welcoming organizations existed outside Denver.
Faried had grasped his talent and the outline of his potential in his growth a season ago, and a memorable 40-point, 10-rebound MVP performance in the Rising Stars game earned him praise from peers and a retired legend, Shaquille O’Neal. Wisely and inevitably, the Nuggets kept him beyond the trade deadline.
Through most of the season, Faried’s adjustments lurched: a gradual process under new head coach Brian Shaw, reduced minutes, the Nuggets’ commitment to him unclear and an apparent roadblock in his development as a franchise’s core piece. Earlier in the season, Faried had declined to comment on supposed deals. For once, a trading season served a player fresh reasons to feel desired again.
“I’m not surprised at all that my name was in trade situations, because I am a good player and people do want me,” Faried told RealGM. “It just makes me that much more aware of how many other teams want me and like me.”
How close Denver management ever came to consummating a deal is uncertain, and every round of speculation surrounding Faried had presented like a hopeless plea on the outside. His youth (24 years old) and blend of athleticism and ferocious knack for the ball make him a self-starter.
For the Nuggets, a potential trade for Iman Shumpert never made sense, and yet the New York Knicks continued trying and trying. Perhaps several other teams pleaded, too, untraced and unearthed.
Nevertheless, it’s led to the best stretch of Faried’s season, a reinvigorated month with three of his total five 20-point games. Ty Lawson has always carried the bulk of responsibilities on these Nuggets since the trade of Carmelo Anthony, and even Faried settled to take a backseat and conceded ownership of the locker room, of shots and pressure, to the 5-foot-11 point guard.
Not until Lawson’s recent rib injury was Faried challenged by family members to increase his production, to emit positivity teammates can gravitate toward. Not until now was Faried able to scan the roster and understand: This team is as much mine as it is Lawson’s, and maybe, just maybe I’m capable of solely leading a supporting cast. This isn’t a selfish, me-me-me conduct in mind, but a healthy, aspiring goal on a team absent of an absolute star.
“I feel like this is my team right now, at least maybe until Ty gets back, and even past then,” Faried told RealGM. “I feel like this is my team and I have to do whatever to help us win games. For me, I know I had to step into the role of taking over the team and putting the team on my back. I got to step up. The trade deadline came and went.
“Right now with all the injuries, the coaches are searching. I’m trying to be that guy they can stop searching and stop looking for.”
Under George Karl, the frenetic pace perfectly suited Faried, the high frequency of shooting allowing more rebounding chances. He’s been running and running like the best of end-to-end rim runners since his days at Morehead State. So Faried entered last summer focusing on his jump shot, and as he says now of his stroke: “My jumper is still a work in progress. No matter what, I could always improve on it, and right now I’m trying to work on getting the ball in the post. So when I do decide to face up and shoot my jumper, it will go down because I’m shooting with confidence.”
From adapting to new coaches to trade whispers, the most perplexing aspect of Faried’s season centers on his lessened minutes. Across this season, he’s averaged the least amount of fouls per game for his career, a testament to elevated discipline clearing the way for enhanced minutes for a big man. Or so Faried expected.
“I thought because of me not fouling as much I would maybe get more minutes,” Faried said. “I’m solidified as one of the guys who plays defense a certain way. Refs let me get away with a lot – more than they did my first two years. I thought I’d have more minutes, but you have your ups and downs. With a new coaching staff, I anticipated they may not know or they want to find their own way of coaching. New coaching staff, so they have to find your niche and find your role.”
The Nuggets unmistakably still have faith in Faried, whom they’d drafted as an unpolished forward in 2011, who nurtured into one of the NBA’s most active, tireless athletes. Faried had been Masai Ujiri’s selection, a steal plucked out of the back-end of the first round, when he experienced desire in a climate of oversight. Now, they’re all after Kenneth Faried with a lust even he detects.