Faried Wants Nuggets’ Rookies to Step Up
The 2012 Las Vegas Summer League is already in full swing, with both rookies and young players across the league battling it out to prove they belong in the NBA. Other players, like Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried, are virtually guaranteed a spot on next season’s roster but are put on the summer league team to hone their skills and lead the current batch of rookies.
Seemingly relishing that leadership opportunity, Faried, who was named to the All-Rookie First Team this past season, hasn’t shied away from dishing out some constructive criticism to his new teammates. Particularly, Faried says Denver’s 2012 first round pick Evan Fournier (20th overall) and second round pick Quincy Miller (38th) are good players, but still have some work to do.
So far during the 2012 NBA Summer League, both Miller and Fournier have failed to impress.
Through three games, Fournier has been decent, averaging 13 points (37.5 percent shooting), 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 31 minutes per contest, but hasn’t been able to grasp the team’s overall defensive philosophy to this point.
“Evan’s good, he can shoot it,” Faried told HOOPSWORLD. ”We’ve just got to get him more [ready] defensively, learning his sets.”
Miller, on the other hand, has proven that he may be more of a work in progress. In 19.7 minutes per contests over three games, Miller is averaging 5.7 rebounds, but just 4.7 points per game on a woeful 26 percent shooting.
“Quincy is good,” Faried said. “He’s athletic, but he’s got to play harder. We’ve got to get him playing harder and get him focused on what he needs to do.
“It’s just little things. When they start to play hard and get the system down pat, they’ll be fine.”
Even though those numbers are less than ideal, it’s important to remember that this is what summer league basketball is all about. The trials and tribulations of learning the NBA game are an arduous journey and what better time than in exhibition play. Getting those growing pains out of the way early and learning from those mistakes are what differentiates future quality NBA players from the also-rans.
As for Faried, playing in his first summer league due to last season’s lockout, the 22-year-old forward has averaged a double-double with 13 points and 11.5 rebounds in two games this summer. Obviously, Faried says the competition overall is less intense than during the NBA season but stressed that guys are pushing and fighting for spots just the same in Las Vegas this year.
“It’s less intense, but guys are really going hard because they want to make a team,” Faried said. “So, it’s like, respect to those guys. You don’t want to come out and play a bad game, especially with how hard those guys are going. You just want to stay focused on improving your game.”
Even though a lower back strain sidelined Faried for the Nuggets previous summer league game on Tuesday, Faried says the injury is not considered serious and he could re-join the team soon.
“My back’s going to be alright,” Faried said. “It’s just a little tight right now. I’ve just got to get loose and get it back to where it was… My teammates look like they need me out there and I’m not one to just lay down and quit, so maybe [Thursday] when we come back out and play, I’ll play.”
Re-joining Faried in Denver next season will be center JaVale McGee, who is fresh off of signing a four-year, $44 million contract to remain with the Nuggets. Another young and talented player in the mix in Denver, Faried says that keeping the big man was crucial moving forward for the Nuggets.
“It’s very important,” Faried said. “[People] saw what he did last year in the playoffs. He’s starting to become a great attribute to our team and he’s just starting to stay focused and get in the flow of things. With him, our team is more dynamic with our bigs and rebounding – especially with his highlight dunks.”
Another of Faried’s teammates that will be suiting up with him again next season is veteran point guard Andre Miller. With the bevy of young players the Nuggets’ possess, the steadying presence and leadership of Miller is something not lost on Faried.
“It’s very big, [Miller] gets the ball where it’s supposed to be,” Faried said. “He’s always on time and he just shows that leadership as a player. No matter how old he gets, he still grinds and plays hard and he doesn’t like to miss games – even with injuries. So that’s respect to him and he hasn’t missed a game except for one suspension, so I respect him for that. ”
As to be expected, Faried believes this youthful and talented Denver squad is primed for a promising future as contenders in the Western Conference.
“[Denver's future] is very bright,” Faried said. “We look forward to [having] a championship year one year and we’re going to stay focused. Guys are going to grind and the offseason is very important right now.”
Featuring one of the deepest rosters in the NBA, Faried may not be too far off with his ideas for this team’s contention. Even though Denver doesn’t feature that one superstar player (at the moment at least), they do currently have a roster that consists of 14 players at 26 years of age or younger.
At least half those players are expected to play key roles in 2012.
With head coach George Karl leading the charge, the Nuggets could be primed to remain legitimate playoff contenders in the brutal Western Conference for years to come.