Kenneth Faried Is Still Hustling

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterJune 27, 2016

Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried celebrates after scoring following an offensive rebound against the Chicago Bulls late in the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 5, 2016, in Denver. The Nuggets won 115-110. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Kenneth Faried isn't known as "The Manimal" for nothing. 

Now five years into his NBA career, the 26-year-old dreadlocked forward out of Morehead State is still hungry for more—more rebounds, more dunks, more explosiveness and more wins. That appetite had Faried lined up for a busy summer.

In late May, he put his 6'8" frame through a battery of athletic tests at Peak Performance Project (P3) in Santa Barbara, California, to better understand his own biomechanics, prevent further injury and chase a better Nuggets winning percentage. Bleacher Report recently caught up with Faried during his maiden voyage to P3, as part of the Adidas Uprising Training Camp along California's Central Coast. 

Bleacher Report: Who were your mentors coming up in the league?

Kenneth Faried: Dennis Rodman. I love how he wasn’t afraid to be himself, either on the court or off the court. I think if he had social media back then, his platform would be crazy right now. He would be making money still for just the stuff he did back then, off his personality.

Charles Barkley. He’s got social media now. Back then, if he had it too, he was wild and crazy. I like guys who came from really nothing and were short and made something. Like Russell Westbrook. Everybody wondered why he got drafted fourth back then. They were like, "What the hell? Just not that good to be drafted No. 4 in that draft." And he panned out. He’s better than a lot of the guys in that draft. Way better.

That’s why I’m here at P3. I’m not trying to get those injuries. I want to continue to get better, continue to work and continue to prove that, "You know what? This kid had a long, healthy career. He became an All-Star, he won a couple championships on the team." I just want to do that.

When I was coming in, I talked to Dennis Rodman for the first time. He was kind of busy, but he was a good guy. He said, "Yo, just keep working." Just telling me the right stuff. I talked to Charles, and I talked to Shaq. I look up to Shaq. He’s from Newark, so he made me want to make it out like he did. He’s a good guy. Very encouraging, just like, "Yo, keep working and rebounding, congrats on the [collegiate rebounding] record" and things like that.

B/R: What was it like playing for coach Michael Malone?

KF: First year, it was interesting. He’s a good coach. He coaches us up hard and tries to get us to go, but a lot of us are self-motivated, so he was just happy that we kept staying self-motivated throughout the whole year when it was looking bad for us. The times we could’ve thrown in the towel, we kept fighting, so that’s what I liked about him. He kept fighting with us.


B/R: It must be tough to stay motivated through another difficult season.

KF: Agreed. It’s difficult.


B/R: What do you think of the group you guys have gotten together? There's a lot of young talent in Denver these days.

KF: Yeah. That’s what I like about it because, I mean, I’m still considered young. I’m on the teeter-totter of young and old in this league.

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

B/R: You're in your prime, right?

KF: That’s what they say. I don’t believe that [laughs]. There’s no prime. I believe that you just play the game and whatever happens, happens. You’ve just got to continue to play hard, no matter what. But I’m excited because we’ve got guys who learned a lot last year from being young.

Hopefully we take that big step and be like the Portland Trail Blazers were this year or be better than Phoenix was a couple years ago when they were really young and they were on the teeter-totter of making the playoffs. I’m excited to see.


B/R: What do you think of the young European guys you’ve got up front (i.e. Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, Joffrey Lauvergne)?

KF: Those are my guys. They’re young, but they’re learning. They’re willing to put in the time, and I’m willing to help them. They look at me, and they ask me for advice and stuff ... so I try to help them to the best of my abilities.


B/R: What’s it like for you being more of a veteran now?

KF: Weird. It’s weird. I don’t feel like it. It’s just weird.

Those titles don’t mean nothing. It matters if you’re going to play hard and get out there and do what you have to. But being a vet in this league, it helps because you know things. You know things before it happens, or you know how to win games if you’ve been part of winning teams.

I know how to win games. I know how to lose games too. I can tell anybody any position to me, like, "Hey, I can tell you from being damn near in the D-League almost as a rookie" to "Hey, you’re going to have to get out there and play basketball and start for your team now." So I can tell you both spectrums.

B/R: Who does more of the vocal leadership in Denver?

KF: For me, it’s been Jameer Nelson and Randy Foye, but Randy’s gone now. It’s been more so Jameer Nelson and Mike Miller as the vocal guys in our locker room. They’ve been in the league way longer than me, so I get to take a seat back and watch.

B/R: Is The Manimal still a thing?

KF: Yes, that’s still my nickname. Everything I go by. Still faithful on social media. 

I’m going to just start getting more involved in my Twitter, too. My Twitter, I was more involved with Instagram. Now I’ve got to get more involved with my Twitter. That gives me words and freedom of speech.

I’m also going to make my Snapchat public. I’m just deciding on a name for it, but I’m going to make my Snapchat public. It’s probably going to be Unleash The Manimal. I don’t know if I can put the hashtag on Snapchat, but I’m going to try to put #UnleashTheManimal.

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

B/R: What’d you think of Emmanuel Mudiay as a rookie? He seemed to evolve as a pro over the course of the season.

KF: I think he got way better over the year. At first, he was making rookie, young, nervous, still-learning mistakes. We all did that. Some more than others, some less. But he really turned it around when it came to March. He had a crazy March Madness for himself. You would think he was in college playing with how crazy it was for him. I was happy for him, though. I was proud of him. He worked for that.


B/R: He seems like a hard worker, like he’s going to be out there getting himself ready for the season.

KF: Yeah, so that’s why our whole team will come back better, because we all were working during the season too. Usually, it’s like the young guys, but it was the vets coming in, still getting shots up, still running on the treadmill, still working. Hey, like, we may not be having the season we want, but that doesn't mean you stop working and doing your job.


B/R: I'm curious about your perspective on the Golden State Warriors. You played them in the playoffs in 2013, when they first started taking off. What’s it been like for you to see what that team has become?

KF: It’s weird because I look at them and I’m like, "Damn, they remind me of what happened with LeBron when he came in the league." Like, it was a big name, had the accolades behind him, but what the difference is that he went to another team and made it happen.

The Warriors did some great, I don’t know, great drafting. I don’t know how the hell they got all those guys. It was great draft picks. Not LeBron’s team. It reminded me of the Bulls! How MJ got drafted there, then [Scottie] Pippen came on, then after that they had the best record because Rodman came there. I was like, "God, the right movement to now where like, look, nobody would’ve expected that because they’re so little!" With the way the game is, everybody’s so big. But that three-point line separates a lot.

DENVER, CO - APRIL 5: Kenneth Faried #35 of the Denver Nuggets shoots the ball during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on April 5, 2016 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downlo
Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

B/R: Is there any part of you that’s concerned that if you’re shooting on the perimeter, that might take away from your game inside?

KF: Oh, no. I’ve watched guys like Serge Ibaka and Kevin Love, who it kind of took away from their game, shooting too many threes. But for me, I love to bang. I want to shoot the three, but yeah, just to get somebody in the air so I can go in the lane and dunk on somebody. That’s my favorite thing to do. I don’t want to hit a three in your face. I want to dunk on you.

I want to block your shot, rebound the ball. My makeup is just different. I’m mentally tough, but I want to do the dirty work.

B/R: You want to use your outside shot to open up your inside game?

KF: My inside game is good, but people know how to play me more. You’ve got moves, but you’re doing the same moves at the end of the day. But if you can stretch out, pump-fake somebody, blow by somebody like LaMarcus Aldridge did in the San Antonio series [against the Oklahoma City Thunder]. He can shoot it, but he can also drive by and get fouled.

I watched him because he’s my toughest matchup. I watch him play and I’m like, "Yo, this is crazy." He does it to anyone...40, 30, it doesn’t matter who you are. You’re going to get scored on because he’s good.


B/R: Is he the toughest power forward to defend in the league these days?

KF: I think so. I didn't see what other power forwards anybody would say over him.

It’s because he’s just smart. Everybody thinks, "Oh, because people get older, they can’t move or do the things." Actually, people get better because they’re working. They can think the game. You can think of a play before it happens. 

Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.