We see him and his flowing dreadlocks flying across the court. He chases down rebounds and swats shots. He is a flat-out beast in Denver who is a living, breathing, double-double machine.
In his fourth season with the Nuggets, Kenneth Faried has grown in stature from an undersized big man at a mid-major to a 2011 first-round pick, Team USA gold medalist and likely future NBA All-Star.
Following Faried’s successful trip to Rio de Janeiro with Team USA this past summer, Denver head coach Brian Shaw spoke of his expectation that the young power forward will transform into a leader for the Nuggets. Team trust was also highlighted in their 24-year-old budding star after signing him to a four-year deal worth $50 million.
Faried is also branching out off the court. American Express recently launched a new digital destination on NBA.com called “Home Court Advantage.” The digital destination will feature exclusive personal stories with players like John Wall, Dwight Howard, and of course, Kenneth Faried.
“My involvement with American Express and Home Court Advantage is something new and exciting,” he says. “It’s showing my background of basically where I grew up and giving more of an inside look into the person I’ve become and showing how much I’ve grown since I was a little kid, where I grew up in a rough neighborhood.
“There’s a video right now that shows my first NBA point and how excited I was and how much it meant to me.”
Taking time out of his day off last week, Faried also spoke with Champs Sports about his maturation as a player, experience with Team USA this summer, and hobbies off the court.
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Obviously, it is still early in the season but what do you think of the team’s performance so far? Is there any facet of your game that you want to specifically focus on?
Kenneth Faried: I think we want to focus on everybody coming back to full strength, where everyone can play 30-40 minutes per night. Right now, it’s kind of tough with guys coming off surgery. We are trying to mesh and come together as a team. We didn’t have a lot of the guys last year and now that they’re back, they’re not at full strength and can only play a certain amount of minutes. We need to find chemistry as a team.
My play is not where I want it to be right now. I’m gonna get better. It’s tough. It’s early and we are still learning and growing as a team.
How does it feel to have signed with the Nuggets long-term, knowing you do not have to worry about contract negotiations or other off-court distractions?
KF: It helps. It helps my peace of mind because I know that the team, the coaches, and everyone believe in me. They said, “Hey, we are going to ride with you. You are going to be a big part of what we do here…” It’s exciting. Sometimes I get nervous but that comes with the territory.
How did your experience with Team USA this past summer affect your growth?
KF: It is affecting me in good and bad ways. I have more confidence to go out there and produce every night and will the Nuggets to win the best I can. With that experience there is more fight and grit to me. But it also puts a target on your back. Every player wants to come at you, because they’re thinking “Oh if he made the team then I can make it.” Every time we play against a person from Team USA or a person who almost made the team, they are holding a grudge.
Who was the funniest player on the Team USA roster? What did they do?
KF: Gosh (laughs)…A lot of characters. I couldn’t really tell you who is the funniest because everyone had their funny moments. I believe I was pretty funny. Kyrie (Irving) and James (Harden) were goofing off making fun. Even Klay (Thompson), who is quiet, was making jokes and having at it. Steph (Curry) was funny and Andre Drummond too, who everyone knows is funny. We all just meshed well though.
You have previously said you try to model your game after Dennis Rodman; have you ever had the chance to speak with him or work with him?
KF: We had a conversation back in the day. I was lucky enough to talk with him in my junior year in college. He was telling me he saw me play and likes how I rebound the ball. He told me when I get to the league, I have to continue to do the things that got me there and stay hungry. He said it wasn’t gonna be easy and that it’s a tough league.
He also said something funny: “Everyone says you play like me on the court, just don’t do what I do off the court.” (Laughs)
What are some hobbies that you enjoy in your free time? Everyone sees The Manimal on the court – who is Kenneth Faried off the court?
KF: I like to chill and spend time with my four-year-old daughter. I spend time with my girlfriend, too, and family that I have in Denver. I also play video games when we’re on the road. The new Call of Duty just came out so I’ve been on that.
Do you play 2K? I’m a big fan – had to ask.
KF: I don’t like playing a game I’m in. I can’t control myself and get something like 20 (points) and 17 (rebounds). I’m pretty awful. My family and friends say “You’re a beast in 2K!” and I’m like “Really? I suck!” I’ll dunk and say “Yeah finally!”
Do you play any other sports video games?
KF: FIFA and Madden. I like Chelsea, Barcelona, and Real Madrid. In Madden, I have to play as my Giants. But they’ve been injury prone recently so I like to play as the Lions. I like Megatron (Calvin Johnson). He’s tall like me and can go get it if he needs to. If I played football, I’d be like Megatron.
What’s on your pre-game playlist?
KF: I must say, my cousin is a rapper and I listen to him a lot – JAZZ2KOOL. He has some dope songs. I guess I’m kind of self-centered (laughs) because three of his songs I listen to have me in them or refer to stuff we have done together in life. But he also has some stuff in them that I wasn’t around for.
He’s getting there. He’s not Wale, Jay Z, J. Cole, 2Pac or Biggie but he’s an up-and-coming rapper. He’s moving up and people like his music.
When it’s not him, I’m listening to Wale, one of my favorites. Or Jay Z – that East Coast thing.
What’s the all-time best basketball pump-up song?
KF: When I was coming into the league, I was listening to J. Cole’s “Return of Simba.” Everyone was calling me The Manimal and it’s a dope song to go with that and a lion.
But right now my favorite intro song is called “Light Work” from my cousin. It’s a great song. It’s talking about basketball and at the same time it’s talking about other things, but I have the other parts edited (laughs).
Follow Matthew on Twitter at @MatthewHochberg