Faried says ankle improving, still hopes to play Game 1

Denver Nuggets forward is five days removed from painful injury
by Aaron Lopez

Small, tender steps.

Five days after shuffling out of Pepsi Center on crutches, Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried reported improvement in his sprained left ankle and remained optimistic about playing Denver’s playoff opener Saturday against the Golden State Warriors.

“I feel physically better,” he said Thursday. “I can walk without a boot. I can walk barefoot now. It’s just getting better and better each day. Like I’ve said, if I can walk, I can play, so I’m just going to see how good the tape job is when game time comes.”

Asked if that meant he would try to play in Game 1, Faried said: “Hopefully. I’m not making any promises. If I’m cleared, I’m playing.”

Faried sprained his ankle when he stepped on the foot of Portland Trail Blazers rookie Will Barton while driving to the basket on Sunday. X-rays were negative and he has been getting several hours of treatment daily.

He was on hand to walk through some offensive and defensive concepts at the start of practice and worked on his free-throw shooting afterward.

“Everybody would say it’s ahead of schedule right now, but I don’t know what that exactly means,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “Until he runs and jumps and defends and shoots and plays one-on-one, I don’t have any feel for it right now.”

While Faried would love to return for Game 1, the schedule allows him to exercise patience. There are two days off before Game 2 and another two-day break before Game 3.

“It’s in our favor,” Faried said. “I can step back and hopefully have these guys win Game 1 and I don’t need to come in and play.”

Needless to say, Faried is much more optimistic about his playoff prospects than when he first suffered the injury.

“When it first happened, I thought something broke,” he said. “I couldn’t put any pressure on it. The X-rays came back negative, so that was a happy feeling. It didn’t matter if it was broken or not, I was going to try to play.”

Before the injury, Faried started all 80 games for Denver, and he’s averaging 11.5 points and a team-leading 9.2 rebounds.

Wilson Chandler replaced Faried in the starting lineup for the season’s final two games.