When training camp for USA Basketball started a couple of months ago, there were questions if Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried could make the FIBA World Championship roster. Now, two games into the tournament, Faried is looking like one of Team USA’s best players.
Faried led the Americans in Sunday’s win against Turkey with a game high 22 points. In the scoring outburst, Faried shot 11-for-14 from the field, grabbed eight rebounds, recorded three steals and even blocked two shots. Faried’s energy and hustle was just what the USA needed when the team was trailing by five points at halftime, and his play gave the Americans the push they needed to win 98-77.
“I don’t really define my role,” Faried told ESPN after the game. “I just want to win. That’s what I want to do, I want to get a gold medal.”
If you continue to play like that, you’ll get your wish Mr. Faried. The forward’s spark was paired perfectly with Anthony Davis‘ big second half, and the two made Team USA’s guards seem like an afterthought. Team USA’s offense looked the best when the team was running the offense through the post with Faried and Davis, and his 11-14 shooting was impressive as it was spread across hook shots, dunks, and layups.
His rebounds, steals, and blocks helped the team control the Turkish national team on the other end of the court as well. Those three steals helped Team USA break out of an early shooting slump, and Faried was even giving the neutral fans something to cheer for by catching a couple of explosive alley-oops.
The Denver Nuggets star is exploding into a national star right in front of our eyes. After posting an impressive average 18.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game in the second half of last season, Faried’s showing he’s got all the tools to continue playing at this All-Star level, no matter if it’s an international game or an NBA game.
He’s starting to get the attention for the stellar play too. Sports Illustrated said the forward is “invaluable” to Team USA in their coverage of the game yesterdayday, and ESPN credited the Nugget forward with “getting the favorites going” in their coverage. Leading the USA men’s basketball team in scoring and rebounding during a world championship game will attract some attention.
It will also increase the pressure on Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly to get an extension done this offseason. All signs point to Faried continuing to play like a star, and the Nuggets have to get him signed to an extension this offseason for it to be considered a successful one. There has been no reports of progress on a contract, so it looks like the team will wait until after the international tournament to get to business there.
Meanwhile, we’ll get to enjoy watching Faried take care of business on the court. He may not define his role, but Faried’s been a true leader on this team, and that’s not too shabby for a player who was an afterthought when the roster was announced.