Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried finding voice with USA Basketball

Denver big man embracing increased leadership role with starting unit
by Aaron Lopez

Before reporting to Chicago to resume training with USA Basketball, Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried received a phone call from U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“You’re going to be coming off the bench,” Krzyzewski told Faried.

Eager to help the team in any way possible, Faried accepted the responsibility of providing rebounding and energy on the second unit.

Within a few days, the plan changed.

As Team USA went through shootaround before its exhibition game against Brazil, Faried found himself working alongside projected starters Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, James Harden and Derrick Rose.

“Kenneth, you’re starting on Nene,” Krzyzewski said, referring to Brazil’s veteran power forward.

“I was extremely surprised,” Faried said during a conference call Thursday.

“It kind of threw me off. But I embraced it and came out and played hard. If I’m going to start, I’m going to bring the energy we need to start the game.”

After scoring 11 points and adding nine rebounds in a victory against Brazil, Faried was in the starting lineup again Wednesday when the United States routed the Dominican Republic at Madison Square Garden. The U.S. team has another exhibition game Friday against Puerto Rico, with roster cuts expected to follow.

Faried appears to be in good position to make the 12-man squad that will represent the United States at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. While not taking anything for granted, he is looking forward to the next step in the journey.

“My anticipation level is high,” he said. “I’m excited about this whole experience. I’m excited to wake up every day and play the game I love, especially at this level. I’m very anxious to go out there and win this gold and come back home and say I’m one of the lucky few that was able to play for a gold medal for this team.”

Self-confidence has never been a problem for Faried, who was selected by the Nuggets 22nd overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. It also has served him well while training under Hall of Fame coach Krzyzewski.

“Coach said to be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not,” Faried said.

“Stay focused and locked in. Play hard, get after it and don’t leave your ego at the door. Come in with your ego because that’s what got us all here. Come in with your ego and aggressiveness.”

Faried, who averaged 13.7 points and 8.6 rebounds for Denver last season, has stayed true to character by hustling, rebounding, defending and running the floor. He also is finding his voice.

“When I come back to Denver, it’s going to help me a lot because I’m going to be more vocal and I’m going to be more of a leader and embrace that leadership role,” he said. “They’re telling me to do that here now. These coaches want me to be vocal and be that guy.”

With the World Cup set to begin Aug. 30, the international basketball community might soon be hearing a lot more from Kenneth Faried.