When DeMarcus Cousins hurt his knee in Team USA’s practice last week, the chances that Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried was going to make the 2014 FIBA World Championship roster increased immensely. Then Faried capitalized, and his play on Saturday night in Team USA’s 95-78 win over Brazil basically punched his ticket to Spain.
In just 23 minutes of playing time for the energetic forward, Faried scored 11 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and posted a team best +27 on the plus-minus differential, based on NBA.com’s Josh Schuhmann’s numbers. Coach Krzyzewski threw Faried into a surprise starting role, and the Nuggets’ young star played the part perfectly. His team-high four offensive rebounds gave the team a spark that allowed the Americans to get an early lead on Brazil.
Coach K still has a quite decision in front of him about Team USA’s big men. The team can only take 12 players to the world championships, and the current roster has 16 players. The bigs include Faried, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Mason Plumlee and Andre Drummond, and it’s unlikely that each will be flying to Spain to play in the games that count.
Faried cemented his spot for those games on Saturday though, and he did it against some quality competition in Brazil. Nene, Tiago Splitter, and Anderson Varejao played the bulk of big man minutes against team USA, and Faried showed his hustle and aggressive rebounding fits in Team USA’s dynamic quite well. He’s going to continue as the team’s energizer and hustle player, and Coach K will continue to reward him with minutes because of it.
I can’t say for sure if Faried will continue to start for the Americans, especially with Cousins expected to return to playing soon, but it will be good for Faried’s development to play as many international games as possible and continue to compete against the world’s best day in and day out for the next couple of months. His exposure to the causal basketball fan that might not watch Denver Nuggets games too often will put him on the fast track to being a bigger superstar back home as well.
Faried’s added fame turns up the heat on Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly as well. Signing Faried was already Connelly’s biggest “to-do” item and now Nuggets fans will be even more eager to see Faried’s signature on a contract extension before he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of this upcoming season.
Extension season has officially started as well (teams can sign their players to extensions between Aug. 1 and Oct. 31), and it’s hard to imagine Connelly isn’t already blowing up Faried’s agent. Although no reports have come out about the extension since May, the team has been clear about their intentions to sign the forward to the extension and we should be hearing about it soon.
Saturday’s game ensured Faried’s place on Team USA, and hopefully Connelly will be able to ensure his place on the Nuggets following the national team’s world championship run.