New Orleans Hornets on alert for Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS — With the New Orleans Hornets struggling lately, they should beware of Sunday’s road game against the Denver Nuggets.

“The Manimal” will be waiting.

Power forward Kenneth Faried has been taking the league by storm, one of the reasons the Nuggets could bear watching as the season progresses.

Faried, who gained the moniker because of his aggressive, athletic and energetic play, is averaging 13.2 points per game and 11.5 rebounds, tied for fifth in the NBA. However, he is first in the league in offensive rebounds (5.5) — a big reason Denver leads the NBA in rebounding average (49.3 per game) and offensive rebounds (16.6). The Nuggets are also first in second-chance points (19.7) and points in the paint (51.8).

“I go so hard (for offensive rebounds),” said Faried. “And if I can’t get it, one of my teammates can try to get it.”

The Hornets, who don’t score with the greatest of ease, try to fast-break as much as they can. However, there’s no running without rebounds.

Although the Nuggets were 6-6 heading into Friday night’s game at Golden State, they were 6-3 since a three-game road losing streak to open the season.

Even the Grizzlies were impressed with the board beatdown in Memphis. Half of Denver’s 42 rebounds were on offense.

“They crushed us on the boards, and that’s not like us,” said Memphis forward Rudy Gay.

Center JaVale McGee has been relegated to a backup role as Kosta Koufa has been inserted into the starting lineup. But McGee averages three offensive rebounds per game off the bench. That has coach George Karl pleased.

“Kenneth’s energy is contagious, and Javale has gotten to be very confident,” Karl said.

The Hornets play Monday night at the Los Angeles Clippers, another team whose young front line has been playing more aggressively this season.

Still struggling

Small forward Paul George’s performance against the Hornets on Wednesday might have taken the Pacers’ minds off the fact Danny Granger will be out three months with a sore left knee.

George had 37 points against the Hornets, making nine 3-pointers. However, the Pacers are averaging 88 points per game, at the bottom of the league’s statistics and also 10 fewer than last season.

Granger, who prepped at Grace King High School in Metairie, has left patellar tendinosis, a condition commonly referred to as “jumper’s knee.” He visited noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Gulf Breeze, Fla., in early November and received an injection. He also had a relatively new procedure done in September — blood-platelet treatment — on the knee.

Granger averaged 21.6 points the past five seasons, including a team-leading 18.7 last season, when Indiana surprised and made the playoffs as the No. 3 seed, advancing to the semifinals, where it lost to Miami.

The Pacers had their sights on reaching the conference finals, at least, this season.

Granger is expected to miss about 50 games. He missed just seven games in the past two seasons.

Scratching, clawing

Since their 107-99 loss to the Hornets on Nov. 10, the Charlotte Bobcats had won five of six games heading into Friday night.

The Bobcats were 6-4 heading into their game against Atlanta. They finished last season 7-59, the worst season, percentage-wise, in NBA history.

Now they can make history of sorts. They can become the fastest team to equal their previous season’s record. The 1973-74 Philadelphia 76ers, who were 9-73 in 1972-73, took 24 games to win its ninth.

Charlotte is turning things for the better with Bobcat-like fight. It is 5-0 in games decided by four points are fewer, and its 6-4 record tied the best start in the franchise’s young history with the 2007-08 team.

The lineup of rookie small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, power forward Byron Mullens, center Brendan Haywood, shooting guard Jason Taylor and point guard Kemba Walker is 5-2. The Bobcats were 4-0 in the Eastern Conference, joining only the Knicks as teams unbeaten in conference play.

Charlotte also has five home wins, surpassing last season’s four.

Holiday spirit

Hornets veteran guard Roger Mason Jr. and his foundation partnered with New Home ministries on Monday to donate more than 300 turkeys and trimmings to families in New Orleans.

It was the second consecutive year Mason has provided Thanksgiving turkeys in the city. He also has done a similar charity at the Boys & Girls Club in Washington, D.C., his hometown.

“People were telling us, ‘Thank you, because it’s hard out here today,’ ” said Mason, who is in his ninth year. “It really puts a smile on my face.”