The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - MARK KISZLA

Af­ter ex­plor­ing a trade of Ken­neth Faried count­less times, now gen­eral man­ager Tim Con­nelly must fi­nally make a deal, be­fore Den­ver runs the value of a dis­grun­tled, con­fused player into the ground.

This Man­i­mal thing isn’t work­ing out. Oh, Ken­neth Faried and the Nuggets have tried. But what’s the point in stay­ing to­gether when the 27-year-old power for­ward and the team make each other mis­er­able?

Af­ter ex­plor­ing a trade of Faried count­less times, it’s time for gen­eral man­ager Tim Con­nelly to fi­nally make a deal, be­fore Den­ver runs the value of a dis­grun­tled, con­fused player into the ground.

Here’s the def­i­ni­tion of ir­rec­on­cil­able dif­fer­ences:

Sit­ting in a cor­ner Wed­nes­day af­ter prac­tice, arms folded tightly across his chis­eled bare chest, Faried stared at me with eyes harder than his stiff up­per lip and said: “What­ever helps the team win. If that means I have to sit on the bench the rest of the year, I’m pre­pared for that. I’m go­ing to stay fo­cused and cheer my team­mates on.”

Turn­ing the Man­i­mal into a cheer­leader be­ing paid $12 mil­lion isn’t the an­swer. What the Nuggets need to do is turn Faried loose from what the con­stant melo­drama of trade ru­mors that have dogged him for more than two years. He has been linked to so many NBA des­ti­na­tions, from Los An­ge­les to New York, the threads of his yanked heart­strings have be­gun to re­sem­ble a route map for South­west Air­lines. Enough al­ready. The Nuggets are a mess. Yes, there’s promis­ing tal­ent on a young ros­ter that teases us all with the hope bet­ter days are around the cor­ner. But the pieces don’t fit. The mis­matched parts keep fall­ing on Faried, who has ev­ery right to feel jerked around in a play­ing ro­ta­tion that ex­hibits lit­tle rhyme and zero rea­son.

“It’s ex­tremely tough,” said Faried, who lost his start­ing job be­fore the sea­son, then re­gained it, only to see his min­utes evap­o­rate as Den­ver has stum­bled to a 9-16 record.

By all ap­pear­ances, Faried was made the scape­goat for a just­com­pleted and of­ten-desul­tory road trip, dur­ing which coach Michael Malone was so an­gered by his team’s lack of com­pet­i­tive fight he de­stroyed a chair in re­sponse to a 112-92 loss against the Dal­las Mav­er­icks.

“Man, if you guys could have seen a hid­den cam­era in the coaches’ locker room in Dal­las, you would have thought I was a

rav­ing lu­natic,” Malone said. “I’m still sore … phys­i­cally. But I got it out. There’s a chair in pieces in Dal­las. But I wasn’t tak­ing that home to my wife and daugh­ters — or my dog, for that mat­ter.”

Dur­ing the re­cent six-game trip in which the Nuggets lacked the en­ergy for which the Man­i­mal is known, here is a city-by-city ac­count­ing of Faried’s time on the court. Salt Lake City: 23 min­utes. Philadel­phia: 13 min­utes. Brook­lyn: 12 min­utes. Wash­ing­ton, D.C.: DNP, coach’s de­ci­sion. Or­lando: 24 min­utes. Dal­las: 8 min­utes.

While in­sist­ing he does not blame Faried, it’s ob­vi­ous Malone has lost a lit­tle faith in his sixth-year vet­eran, which echoes the tur­bu­lent re­la­tion­ship be­tween Faried and Malone’s pre­de­ces­sor on the Den­ver bench, Brian Shaw.

“My great­est chal­lenge right now is, yes, to win games. But, more im­por­tant, it’s to keep a young, frag­ile, sen­si­tive team to­gether. That’s re­ally my big­gest chal­lenge ev­ery sin­gle day,” said Malone, who knows it’s im­pos­si­ble to keep 15 play­ers happy with their roles.

It’s not Faried’s fault Den­ver is a piti­ful 3-7 in the Pepsi Cen­ter (a.k.a. The House of Lame). Keep­ing the Man­i­mal around for his crowd ap­peal, how­ever, no longer makes sense, with the Nuggets’ home at­ten­dance cur­rently 29th in a 30-team league.

Dur­ing re­cent years, the name of Faried has been linked in trade ru­mors in­volv­ing Kevin Love, Blake Grif­fin and Jimmy But­ler. The Nuggets have tried to use Faried’s re­bound­ing prow­ess and rea­son­able NBA salary as chips in a mul­ti­player offer for a bona fide NBA star. It hasn’t worked. Faried could help a con­tender, but he is not Tris­tan Thompson, the un­sung blue-col­lar worker for the league champs in Cleve­land.

Maybe the Nuggets value Faried more than the rest of the NBA does.

Malone has grown in­creas­ingly fond of uti­liz­ing Wil­son Chan­dler at power for­ward and seems com­mit­ted to re­turn­ing Nikola Jo­kic to his right­ful place as the start­ing cen­ter. Add a de­sire to get mean­ing­ful min­utes for Jusuf Nur­kic to the re­cent three-year, $23 mil­lion com­mit­ment made to Darrell Arthur, and it is no won­der Faried’s spot in the play­ing ro­ta­tion has been squeezed.

So maybe here’s the real prob­lem: How does Con­nelly max­i­mize the re­turn for Faried in trade at a time when the Man­i­mal threat­ens to be­come lit­tle more than an ex­pen­sive cheer­leader?

First, the Nuggets must de­cide be­tween mak­ing a run at the fi­nal play­off spot in the West­ern Con­fer­ence and tak­ing one more shot at their luck in the NBA lot­tery, while de­vel­op­ing young play­ers such as point guard Em­manuel Mu­diay for 2017 and be­yond. The Man­i­mal is stuck in no-man’s land. Set him free.

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