Practice principles pay off for Nuggets rookie Kenneth Faried
Denver 98, Boston 91
Little did anyone know that St. Patrick is one heck of a shooting coach.
Hours before facing the Boston Celtics, Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried worked diligently with assistant coach Patrick Mutombo to hone his free-throw technique.
Trying to keep the rookie mentally focused, Mutombo gave Faried various late-game scenarios: Down three and needing three free throws to force overtime. Two free throws after a hard foul.
Faried knocked down the shots each time.
Illustrating that practice can indeed make perfect, Faried made all eight of his free-throw attempts Saturday night, including two that gave Denver some breathing room in the final minute of a 98-91 St. Patrick's Day victory over the Celtics.
“Eight-for-eight at the line, I owe all that to my coaches, especially Patrick Mutombo,” Faried said. “We stay in that gym hours and hours on end. It was crazy. We were talking and he was like, ‘You’re going to win games for us from the free-throw line.’ Luck of the Irish, the luck of St. Pat’s, I hit every free throw.”
Faried also finished 5-for-5 from the field, scored 18 points and grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds in less than 24 minutes. He became the first Nuggets player to score at least 18 points while going perfect from the field and the foul line since Danny Schayes on March 6, 1990.
“We don’t close that game out probably without Kenneth,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “I was impressed with him the whole game, but I really loved him in the last three or four minutes of the game.”
Up by 17 in the first half and 12 at the end of the third quarter, the Nuggets were clinging to a two-point lead with 3:29 remaining when Ty Lawson and the Manimal went to work.
Lawson hit a corner three and then found Faried for an alley-oop dunk to push the advantage to seven. Four straight free throws by Kevin Garnett made it a one-possession game again, but Faried knocked down his clutch foul shots to complete his perfect night.
“I’ve seen him working with all of the coaches. They all do a great job keeping him sharp,” Nuggets forward Al Harrington said. “The sky’s the limit for him. He’s got to keep working, keep getting better and he’ll be all right.”
The Nuggets coaching staff certainly will keep Faried on the right path.
With a reputation for developing young players, Denver assistants Mutombo, Ryan Bowen, Melvin Hunt, Chad Iske, Jesse Mermuys and John Welch spend countless hours with anyone willing to put in the time on the court.
“I don’t’ want to take credit for any of this,” Mutombo said of Faried’s on-court success. “This kid was good. He didn’t wait on me to be able to do what he does. That’s all him. I’m just kind of present walking with him. That’s all him. It has nothing to do with me.”
While Faried was the star of the night, many of his teammates also deserved credit for their contributions.
Gallinari scored 20 points and recorded a sweet behind-the-back pass to Faried while helping the Nuggets build a big cushion in the first half. Arron Afflalo finished with 15 points and Lawson added 10 assists.
Denver’s second unit of Harrington, Corey Brewer, Rudy Fernandez, Kosta Koufos and Andre Miller also excelled in the first half, pushing the pace against an older Celtics team that played in Sacramento one night earlier.
“It was just simple – we really got outworked,” Boston forward Paul Pierce said. “I hate for it even to come out of my mouth. It wasn’t about X’s and O’s. It was about pride and effort.”
With a 10-man rotation, the Nuggets don’t have to pace themselves, so their effort should always be at full throttle.
Faried, of course, knows no other speed.
“I just stay in the gym,” he said. “I live here. This is what I love to do. I love to play ball. You have to love to stay in the gym and want to work.”
After the Nuggets (25-20) improved to 4-3 on their seven-game homestand, Karl gave Faried and the team the day off Sunday.
Denver is still waiting for newly acquired center JaVale McGee to be cleared to practice. Because of the intricacies associated with a three-team trade, not all the paperwork has been completed.
Once the trade becomes finalized, the Nuggets plan to waive center Ronny Turiaf and sign forward Wilson Chandler, possibly in time for Monday’s game against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks.
“After the trade, the (Boston win) gives us the energy to go after Dallas and hopefully build a little winning streak before we go out on the road,” Karl said.
“We have (21) games and maybe all of them are going to be important in the race.”
Notes: Faried became the first Nuggets rookie to record at least 18 points and 16 rebounds since LaPhonso Ellis had 18 points and 17 boards on April 18, 1993 … Faried had 11 rebounds at halftime; Boston as a team had 12 … Denver improved to 10-2 when Gallinari scores 20 points or more … The Nuggets outrebounded the Celtics 46-27 ... The sellout crowd at Pepsi Center included a good number of vocal Celtics fans. "They had a lot of fans out there on St. Patrick’s Day," Harrington said. "We’ll give people a pass for the day."