Kenneth Faried: ‘NBA Finals not a Curry v LeBron show anymore’

Denver Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried is in Mumbai as a part of NBA India’s campaign to promote basketball.

Faried enjoyed a 'cutting chaai’ at a tea stall and some Indian delicacies at The Village Dhaba on the Yamuna Expressway while in Delhi.   -  NBA India

Denver Nuggets failed to qualify for the NBA play-offs for the fourth straight season but the 2016-17 campaign wasn’t entirely bad with the likes of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray showing enough to suggest that the future is bright for the young team.

Head coach Michael Malone, in his second year, instilled belief in his young team and if the former Sacramento Kings coach continues his trend of improvement, the Nuggets will definitely be in the play-offs next year.

One of the unheralded stars in Nuggets’ much improved campaign was Kenneth Faried. The 27-year-old power forward averaged around 10 points a match during the regular season and continued to intimidate the opposition with his aggressive style of play which has earned him the title ‘Manimal’.

We caught up with Faried, who is in Mumbai as a part of NBA India’s campaign to promote basketball, for a quick telephonic conversation on Nuggets’ season and what to expect in the NBA finals.

Excerpts:

Question: How satisfied are you with Nuggets' season? Was there a specific target you had set before starting the season?

Answer: Every time you go into the season you want to reach the play-offs. We fell slightly short of that but we are really satisfied because people didn't believe we were going to get that close (Nuggets finished ninth, one short of a play-off place, in the Western Conference). Everyone was already counting us out but we showed we have the right tenacity and some good players developing, so we will get better and hopefully make it play-offs next year.

There seems to be a big gap in quality between the Eastern and the Western conferences. While Golden State has dominated the West, the likes of Spurs, Rockets and Thunder have all looked more rounded sides than their counterparts in the East. Is this a misconception due to Cavaliers' dominance or do you actually think something has been missing?

I believe that is 100% true. The league is kind of dominated by two teams (Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers) right now but the West has more depth and its not an easy ride to the play-offs. It is certainly more difficult for the West in the play-offs. But in East, as far as Cleveland goes, they just dominate. It is funny because they just lost the game (Eastern Conference finals against Boston Celtics) by one shot but I really do believe that they were taking it easy.

Do you think the game (especially NBA) has changed significantly since you started playing it? Point Guards have become a vital cog in scoring with likes of Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook running the show for their respective teams. Is this a tactical shift or just the players getting better?

Point Guards have always been a big factor in the game. When I started playing there was Chris Paul, Deron Williams and all these other guards who were just dominating the court. I remember watching Gary Payton, Magic Johnson.. and now the likes of Russell Westbrook. I knew the likes of Westbrook were going to be good and its just that have got more exposure now.

We are very likely to see another Cleveland v Golden State finals again unless Celtics can spring a surprise. Who do you think will have the last laugh in the Curry v LeBron battle?

Everybody is anticipating a Cleveland v Golden State final but its funny because its not a Curry v LeBron show any more after Kevin Durant went over there. It used to be (same) four teams going into the final (two each in respective conferences) but its now three (Oklahoma City Thunder is no longer a guaranteed finalist after Durant left). I can see Steph Curry doing a lot because of Kevin Durant being there.

Tell us more about what brought you to India.

I came to Mumbai to visit NBA's first school in India. I am here to show the kids that NBA players want to see them prosper. And also to learn something new every day and get better. It's not 'Oh we are NBA players and we are larger than life'. We want to teach the kids, the youth, who are the future for NBA.

Can you throw some light on NBA's D-League considering how most hoopsters from India make it to D-League (like Satnam Singh and Palpreet Singh). How does it improve a player and increase his chances of getting picked in a draft?

The way we are reconstructing the D-League — to develop players and show them they can make it to the NBA — is a smart idea. This (D-League) is a serious matter now and the NBA is trying to emulate how the MLB (Major League Baseball) has been using its D-League. With us doing that, its is going to expand the game that much more, where more and more players from overseas, like India, will come and play.

We already saw pictures of you in front of Taj Mahal and also trying out ‘cutting chai’. What else is there on your ‘to-do’ list?

I went to the Taj and tried the tea. I want to try the food, the culture, to meet people and experience everything that India has to offer. And thus far it's been a lot. I went to Haji Ali on Sunday and it was very interesting to hear the story about the saint.

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