whatenneth faried is located at about 7200 feet above sea level. At times, though, the former starter for Team USA and the Denver Nugget has felt much lower. His season in the G League with the Captains of Mexico City concluded at the end of March, the team narrowly missing the playoffs but faed Well played, averaging 11.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists on the year. Still, he remains far from his ultimate goal. Many NBA fans probably remember the “Manimal” and his fierce blocks and dunks. Since his rookie year in 2011, Faried has defied expectations. At 6-foot-8, he bounced around traffic like an 8-footer. But now, he’s working his way back into the league after the game changed under his feet. For a player known for his busyness, the question remains, can he look for another opportunity? And can he do it before April 9, the last game of the NBA regular season and the last day to change rosters? he’s trying. But the road can be unforgiving.
“For me, it was depression,” Faried tells The Guardian, speaking of the ups and downs he’s been through since leaving the nba in 2019. “You go into depression. I went into depression. I had to seek therapy.”
A basketball scout would be hard-pressed to find someone who works harder than Faried. Still, the power forward keeps faith that he, like everything else, is part of a big plan. “I started to realize that everything is written,” he says. “I really can’t dwell on what happened in the past.”
Faried was last seen in the NBA in 2019 with the Houston Rockets, where he played in 25 games, starting in 13. He averaged 12.9 points and 8.2 rebounds. Faried had less time during Houston’s postseason run, but rosters often tighten in the playoffs.
“I was great in Houston when I had the chance,” Faried says.
He credits Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, Chris Paul and James Harden for encouraging him. They pressured Faried to shoot more 3-pointers, something he never did in Denver. Part of the reason Faried isn’t in the NBA is because he has a reputation as a poor shooter. He, too, is not considered a versatile playmaker like, say, Paul George or Jason Tatum. But with eyes wide open in Houston, he shot a respectable 35% from long range in the regular season.
However, the following year, the Rockets failed to bring Faried back, and then Covid-19 hit. Faried later played in Russia, China, Puerto Rico and now in Mexico City. Still, his faith remains that the NBA will be next. Defying the odds has long been his calling card. Since his time in the NCAA tournament with Morehead State, the school where he became the NCAA all-time rebounderto his slams in Denver.
“Everyone knew what I was doing [in the NBA]says Faried. “I’m still that person and I still have those skills, at the highest level. But I just need one shot and one chance.”
Faried knows there are plenty of players saying some version of that. If I had the opportunity. After all, Faried got his first in 2011, on the 22nd.North Dakota NBA draft pick that summer. But the Nuggets’ gamble paid off, as he averaged 12.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in his first five seasons. He won Western Conference Player of the Week in November 2012 and was on the league’s All Rookie team the year before. In 2014, Faried won a gold medal at FIBA Basketball World Cup with famed coach Mike Krzyzewski on a team that included Harden, Steph Curry and Anthony Davis. Now, four years out of the NBA, Faried says he’s still “hungry” and “100%” wants to get back in the league.
While he was playing organized basketball in the eighth grade, his parents discovered that he loved it long before then. They would put a bunch of balls in his crib to see which one he gravitated too. Each time, Faried says, he chose the round orange. Reaching for the basketball is still Faried’s instinct. If he gets a rebound, it means his team has a chance to score. It’s so important that his family has made it a credo.
“I guess it would be ‘Bounce the ball, ‘Nard,’” he says. “My name is Kenneth. Bernard Faried, that’s why my family calls me ‘Nard’. They always tell me, ‘Bounce the ball, ‘Nard!’” But Faried’s work doesn’t just help on the court. “My rebounding on this ball added extra years to my mom’s life. She has been fighting lupus her entire life. It means my dad doesn’t have to work with his hands anymore. I can work with mine instead.”
Faried’s father is a carpenter and painter who, Faried says, can “remake your whole house.” He would take Faried in jobs early on to show him a hard day’s work. And the mother of her “bust[s] its tail to stay alive” every day. It is this example that drives Faried and these reasons why he keeps going.
As a rookie in Denver, his then-coach, George Karl, tested his mettle early on. He told Faried that he just didn’t play against rookies. But the player was not offended, he was not angry. Instead, he took it as an opportunity to prove the coach wrong. And he told Karl. He had the chance on him and he quickly became a starter. However, with more opportunities, he came more charge.
“More money, more problems,” Faried says, channeling the notorious BIG
In 2014, Faried played for Team USA and signed a new $50 million contract with Denver. However, it was a year before that, in 2013, that his career really changed. That’s when the Nuggets faced the rising Golden State Warriors. Curry was just beginning to show the world who would it be, and his team was just beginning to find its modern “small ball” rotation, aka “the lineup of death.” The Warriors ousted the Nuggets that season (Golden State would win four titles over the next decade). And the loss exposed Faried. No longer was size (and therefore your ability to neutralize him) valued, but rather the ability to defend faster players like Curry. It’s a change that has since caused heavy centers to end their careers early, including 37-year-old Roy Hibbert and 36-year-old Timofey Mozgov. Other big men like Brook Lopez were forced to become outside shooters.
For Faried, who is still just 33, it meant he had to adapt, and fast. With a big contract, he had to do more on the court, not less. With a new style of play on the horizon, he had to change his game. Not just rushing, but scoring, leading and leading the team into the new “small ball” era. He remembers watching Curry dominate, thinking, “Wow, this kid is amazing!” Faried no longer had to face giants. He had to leave the Lilliputians behind. It was the dawn of the new NBA, one that ESPN insider Brian Windhorst recently described as unapproachable if a big man.”I just can’t move.” Could it be Faried? Curry fast?
“When that [2013 Warriors] It happened,” says Faried, “I remember thinking I had to do more for my team.”
But the league was not the only thing that changed. So was the Nuggets organization. The team selected center Jusuf Nurkić in 2014 and future multi-time MVP Nikola Jokić in 2015 and brought in four-time All-Star Paul Millsap in 2017. The higher-ups also fired coach Karl after the 2013 loss to the Warriors and brought in Brian Shaw as coach. Michael Malone arrived in 2015 and has been on the sidelines ever since. When Malone was hired, Faried was injured. He had come down from a rebound against the Chicago Bulls when he felt something burn in his back. X-rays showed nothing, but he didn’t get the more useful MRI until after the season. He wanted to avoid surgery. But the rehabilitation was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The games and minutes of him decreased. Today, after years of being away from the team and the league, Faried says he still views the Nuggets fondly, including their “rookie” Jamal Murray.
Faried knows he needs defenders if he’s going to get another chance. He laments a time in the past when he responded to a reporter’s question by saying he still deserved to start near the end of his tenure in Denver, just as Millsap was carving out his role as a great, agile 3-point shooter. He came across as arrogant rather than confident, Faried says. He hopes he doesn’t have a reputation. (He is also a former NBA “Community Assist” award recipient for community service.) That’s one of the many reasons he wanted to play for the Capitaines this year. To be a valued contributor, he’s at an NBA stop in a city that values the game. (Mexico City is on the list of potential expansion cities for the league.) Faried clings to the fact that he played well in Houston. That he scored 23 points for the team against Denver in February 2019. He then a triple-double the next game in Utah. In fact, he had 12 double-digit rebounding games for Houston. But without long-term success.
El Manimal says that the “crossroads” for him came last year. He says that he almost didn’t continue his career. Traveling to China, Russia, and various development teams from Mexico City to Grand Rapids, he found himself discouraged. His confidence vanished. He wasn’t sure. Over the years, he has suffered more injuries, including rehabbing a hamstring, and has spent more time on his mental health. But Mexico City gave him his first real chance to compete on a big stage again since he left the NBA. It is an opportunity that devout Muslims have long prayed for. Perhaps now his prayer to return to the NBA will also be answered.
When asked if the NBA does everything it can for players who leave the league, Faried is diplomatic and says that’s not what he thinks right now. He is not retired, he is not in “give up mode”. He, too, doesn’t expect to return to the NBA simply for one more big contract. Instead, Faried says, it’s about the adrenaline rush of competition, showing that he belongs and playing for NBA fans. He tries to recapture a bit of his past by proving that he’s still ready for the NBA. Thinking of all this, Faried considers his three young children. His eldest child saw him play in the league years ago, but the others haven’t yet. However, they tell him: “Daddy, you NBA!”
“Money comes, money goes,” says Faried. “It’s not what motivates me. For me, all along, it’s been basketball. I will not let go of hope.”