This was supposed to be Kenneth Faried’s year.
In the spring of 2014, during the post-All-Star break portion of the NBA season, Faried was statistically one of the best power forwards in the league, averaging 18.8 points and 10.1 rebounds. Over the summer he blossomed into one of the best players on the USA Basketball national team during its gold-medal run at the FIBA World Cup in Spain. And this fall, just before the start of his fourth NBA season, Faried inked a four-year, $50 million contract extension with the Denver Nuggets.
The 2014-15 campaign was supposed to be something of a proving ground that Faried, a.k.a. “The Manimal” — a practicing Muslim who tweets “#UNLEASHTHEMANIMAL #BISMILLAH” just about every morning — has arrived as one of the NBA’s top talents. But so far things haven’t gone as expected.
Through Tuesday’s schedule, Faried was averaging 11.2 points and 6.9 rebounds while shooting 50.3 percent from the field — all below his career averages. The Nuggets, meanwhile, are 9-9 and currently on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture looking in. Whereas a couple of months ago Faried was thought to be an integral part of the future of the franchise, now his name is regularly being floated in trade rumors and has been included in reports that he’s fallen out of favor with Denver’s coaching staff and front office.
Recently, Faried addressed his slow start to the season, calling his own play “awful.” From the Denver Post:
Faried knows the start of his season hasn’t been up to standard — by his standard or anyone else’s who knows he has so much more to give. So he doesn’t mince words. He has been a shell of himself, a half-Manimal through the first 16 games, desperately seeking his whole self again.
“I just haven’t been playing my game,” Faried said. “I know it. My teammates know it. My coaches know it. Hopefully, this month of December, I turn everything around. But for me, it’s awful. You’ve got to be able to look at yourself, look at the man in the mirror and say that to yourself. And be able to correct yourself.”
When he entered the league as a rookie out of Morehead State University, Faried was known as a rebounder and defender, the type of gritty energy player that every good team needs. He was often compared to Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, a rebounding savant and defensive stopper whose offense was an afterthought. Last season was a breakthrough for Faried as an all-around contributor, however, as his offensive game flourished in the final two months. During that time, Faried became a reliable ball-handler and scorer for his position.
As he’s struggled in the early part of this season, Faried says his entire game needs improving. Nuggets coach Brian Shaw reportedly wants Faried to focus especially on rebounding, which is still his bread and butter.
“Next year, I start getting paid (star player) type of money, so I can’t be making the mistakes that I’ve been making. Or not doing what I usually do, or what got me the contract,” Faried told the Denver Post. “I’ve got to focus back in and get, not even just rebounding and scoring, just find my love for the game like I always had.”
For all there is not to like about the pressure and spotlight of being a professional athlete and having everything you do at work played and replayed and scrutinized, one benefit is that you can always find favorable highlight clips of yourself. If Faried is looking to reignite that lost spark, tracking down a YouTube clip like the one posted below may be all he needs to rediscover his Manimal spirit.