Nene happy to join forces with rookie teammate Faried

Nuggets big men could be paired together in frontcourt

As the legend of The Manimal grows by the day, by the hour, by the tweet, so too does Kenneth Faried’s fan base.

One of the rookie’s biggest supporters sits directly across the Denver Nuggets’ locker room.

“He’s doing an amazing job,” veteran teammate Nene said. “I’m very excited for the rookie. He’s playing great.”

With Nene sidelined for 10 games with a left calf strain, Faried took his opportunity and slammed it home like so many of his fast-break alley oops. In the past 11 games, he is averaging 11.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.27 blocked shots.

“You’ve got to play him,” Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson said. “That’s our rebounding guy.”

While the Nuggets preferred not to be without Nene and starting forward Danilo Gallinari for nearly a month, it allowed Faried to gain invaluable experience that can be put to use over the season’s final seven weeks.

Now that Gallinari (sprained left ankle) and Nene are back, expect coach George Karl to still find minutes for his top rookie. Against Sacramento, Faried started the second half at the power forward spot while Nene started in place of center Timofey Mozgov, who was slowed by a sprained left ankle.

Nene and Gallinari remain on minute restrictions, so they could come off the bench again when the Nuggets face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday at Pepsi Center.

“My gut says I’ll probably stay with the guys who got four (wins) in a row,” Karl said.

Mozgov, who initially sprained his ankle on Feb. 3, is listed as a game-time decision against Cleveland. Gallinari and Nene are probable, while Kosta Koufos (left knee strain) is questionable. Reserve guard Rudy Fernandez (lower back strain) is not expected to play.

Nene, Gallinari, Faried and Arron Afflalo were among several Nuggets who came to Pepsi Center on Tuesday to work out and receive treatment.

Afflalo was just 15 hours removed from scoring a career-high 32 points. His three free throws with 0.6 seconds left in regulation forced overtime, and the Nuggets held on for a 119-116 victory.

Incidentally, Afflalo was one of two NBA players who went to the free-throw line for three shots with his team trailing by three in the final seconds Monday. Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul – shooting .852 from the line this season – made the first two but missed the third with 2.7 seconds left; lost to Minnesota by a point.

“People don’t understand,” Karl said. “Making three free throws in a row is very, very difficult (in that situation).”

Afflalo said he remembered having to shoot three must-make free throws late in a game in college at UCLA but never with less than a second remaining. He didn’t blink after waiting out a video review and a Sacramento timeout after he made the first two.

“When you are a great player, you make those free throws,” Gallinari said. “It was a great game by everybody.”

Aaron Lopez
Aaron J. Lopez is the primary writer for, providing behind-the-scenes content, including feature stories and video for the site. Before joining the Nuggets in 2009, he spent 15 years covering Colorado sports for the Rocky Mountain News and the Associated Press, making him one of the longest-tenured sports writers in Denver. Aaron's full bio...