Bernucca: Like many adored stars, Wade gets a pass

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Wade meets the PresidentWhen you’re an adored star in this league, you get a pass on a lot of things.

And Dwyane Wade got a pass for an absolutely rockhead play in Miami’s inexplicable loss to Boston on Saturday.

The Heat led by four with less than two seconds to play. On their home floor. Against the Celtics. And lost. In regulation.

And most of it was on Wade, who (a) faltered in the clutch; (b) made his own strategic decision without any input from the coaches; (c) poorly executed his strategy; and (d) opened a door to a loss that had pretty much been closed.

And Wade got a pass. Understandably, from his coach and teammates. But also from the fans and the media.

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SH Blog: Chris Andersen got catfished, Iguodala says he doesn’t get enough credit

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birdmanEver watch the show “Catfish” on MTV?

It’s a show about people who fall in love online, only to learn that the person they had been in a relationship with is not actually who they claim to be. The person taking the identity of another person for one reason or another is known as a catfish, and they can apparently get to anyone: even an NBA star like Chris Andersen, aka Birdman.

You may have heard in the past that Andersen was being investigated for his involvement with an underaged girl. It sounded quite troubling, but there was never any detail as to what the whole story was about. The details of exactly what happened has surfaced, and “Birdman” was reportedly the victim of an internet crime, from Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

“We were always confident that Chris was innocent but we just couldn’t figure out what had happened,” Andersen’s lawyer, Mark Bryant, told ESPN.com. “It turned out that it was a Manti Te’o situation. It was Manti Te’o on steroids.”

In Andersen’s case, a woman in the middle used social media to dupe two people without their knowledge, according to police.

The woman, identified by the Denver Post as Shelly Lynn Chartier of Easterville, Manitoba, posed as Andersen in electronic conversations with a woman in California. Then she posed as the California woman in electronic conversations with Andersen.

Along the way, police told Andersen, she made threats pretending to be Andersen and attempted extortion pretending to be the woman from California. Chartier was arrested by Canadian authorities in January.

Her communications between the parties were successful enough that the woman from California traveled to Colorado, when Andersen was then playing for the Denver Nuggets, and met Andersen. Their relationship, however, did not develop. At the time of their meeting, the woman from California was of legal age, Bryant said.

“When they searched Chris’ house they were basically looking for an I.P. address,” Bryant said. “But it wasn’t there. They kept investigating but it took time because it ended up involving two countries.”

It’s amazing that investigators were able to come to the bottom of this issue. It’s even more amazing – in a very disturbing way – that someone is capable of duping two people into believing that they are actually talking to each other online. Luckily for Andersen, he will not be wrongfully charged in any way, and can move forward with his life. The lesson here: if you meet someone online and the communication is sketchy, turn away from the computer and go find yourself a date that you can actually see face to face.

Onto other news from around the league (14 items):

  • Jeff_Pendergraph_in_2008Jeff Pendergraph is no longer Jeff Pendergraph and here is why, from Jeff McDonald of Express-News: “In July, the Spurs signed a free agent forward named Jeff Pendergraph to a two-year contract. No player by that name will ever appear in a Spurs uniform. Last month, Pendergraph walked into a courthouse in downtown Phoenix, his wife Raneem and newborn daughter Naomi in tow. He walked out with a new name — Jeff Ayres. Ayres is family name of his biological father, James. It replaces the surname of a stepfather who hasn’t been in the picture since the player formerly known Jeff Pendergraph was in high school. For the 26-year-old veteran of three NBA seasons, the journey from Pendergraph to Ayres was in some ways as simple as filling out a thick stack of paperwork and filing it with an Arizona judge. It was also a complicated decision, with a complex back story, one that tests the traditional definitions of blood and family. “I didn’t know who my dad was until I was a senior in high school,” Jeff Ayres said Wednesday, during a break from pickup games as the Spurs’ practice gym.”

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Mighty Moke’s Top 50 Free Agents — July 6 Update

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220px-Josh_Smith_2010_cropped

Smoove Takes the Motor City

Traditionally, after the biggest of fish find themselves off of the market, the second and third tier quickly follow.

On Friday, when it became common knowledge that Dwight Howard was headed to Houston, the Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors rebounded quite nicely, agreeing to terms with Paul Millsap, Jose Calderon and Andre Iguodala, respectively.

Now, just one day later, Andrew Bynum appears to be close to signing with the Mavericks, as well, while Josh Smith has reportedly agreed to terms with the Detroit Pistons on a four-year deal worth $56 million.

Carl Landry was swooped up by the Sacramento Kings, as well. He will sign a four-year deal worth $27 million with the club.

Jarrett Jack? He will be heading to Cleveland to (presumably) back up Kyrie Irving. He rebounded rather nicely, securing a four-year deal worth $25 million.

And the latest of the more renowned names that is off of the market is Devin Harris. On Saturday, Harris agreed to return to where it all began—Dallas. Harris will sign with the Mavericks, who selected him with the fifth overall pick of the 2004 draft. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the deal is for three years, $9 million.

With Smith now off of the market, SheridanHoops’ top five free agents are all off of the board. Chris Paul and David West re-upped with their incumbent teams, while Howard, Smith and Al Jefferson bolted their teams and left their precious employers (and their respective Bird rights).

All eyes are now squarely on Monta Ellis and Nikola Pekovic.

Just to keep you up to date, with Smith being taken off of the market, the SH Top 5 Free Agents have all found homes, 10 of our top 15 and 18 of our top 25 are all gone.

The details are below.

It has been a turbulent and rocky six days, and anyone who has watched it closely certainly knows that the Howard saga did not end without its fair share of drama. As for where we stand right now, the Lakers have released a statement regarding Howard’s decision to defect, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey granted an exclusive interview to Comcast SportsNet Houston, and Howard himself released a brief statement via his Twitter feed. In other words, it is as official as it will get until July 10, when Howard can officially ink his deal.

In the early hours on Saturday, we saw a few of the “other” free agents agree to new deals, as well. The San Antonio Spurs, after agreeing to sign Marco Belinelli, have agreed to terms with Jeff Pendergraph on a two-year deal. The Rockets, the day after learning that Howard would join them, have agreed to bring Francisco Garcia and Omri Casspi to Houston. The terms? Two-years, $2.6 million and two-years, $2 million, respectively.

And finally, the very productive Dorrell Wright has agreed to head to Portland after shaking hands with the Trail Blazers on a two-year, $6 million deal.

The top five available remaining free agents, per SheridanHoops’ rankings: (1) Nikola Pekovic, (2) Monta Ellis, (3) Jeff Teague, (4) Brandon Jennings and (5) Andrew Bynum.

J.J. Hickson, Corey Brewer and Mo Williams are still out there, as well, and any of those three players can have a profound impact on a playoff team looking to take a step forward in next season’s playoffs, though, obviously, the road to the NBA Finals will probably travel through Miami out East and San Antonio Oklahoma City Houston Oakland Memphis Los Angeles some city west of New Orleans.

Here’s your mid-evening update.

LAL_Howard_Dwight1. Dwight Howard (Center, LA Lakers)

Still just 27, everyone is willing to overlook the disappointing 2012-13 campaign since D12 was playing hobbled for most of it. Fair questions persist as to whether he can lead a team to the promised land, but we know that any team would be willing to roll the dice to find out. If you called any GM and offered Howard in exchange for his starting center, all (except Orlando) would say yes. That’s why he’s still numero uno.  JULY 4 UPDATE —  The Lakers removed a Howard banner and Hakeem Olajuwon and Daryl Morey both believe that “H-Town” will become “Howard” town. JULY 5 UPDATE — Word now expected to come via Dwight’s Twitter account. If you spend your weekend checking Twitter 2,491 times, you, too, are living the life of a sportswriter. We are expecting Houston, but still awaiting an official announcement. JULY 6 UPDATE — Howard has chosen to sign with the Houston Rockets. The terms? Four years, $88 million. He left a fifth guaranteed year and $30 million in guaranteed salary on the table to defect from the Los Angeles Lakers. Howard has an opt-out after 2015-16, Yahoo reports.

Paul70X1002. Chris Paul (Point Guard, LA Clippers) 

After leading the Clippers to their best season in franchise history and first division title, Paul has gotten over the fact that Donald Sterling outed him as the reason for Vinny Del Negro’s departure. Sterling needed to bring in Doc Rivers to make peace with CP3, and acquiring the coach from Boston was a move that assured Paul is staying. JULY 2 UPDATE — Paul has agreed to re-sign with the Clippers on a five-year, $107 million max. deal. 

UTA_Jefferson_Al (1)3.  Al Jefferson (Center, Utah Jazz)

One thing we know: A big man who has proven that he can score with his back to the basket is a very valuable commodity. Jefferson is arguably a better all-around offensive weapon than Howard. He is still relatively young at 28 and has been a consistent force in the paint for the Jazz. The bum knee that limited him to 50 games in 2008-09 is now a distant memory. A max player, for sure. JULY 2 UPDATE — Jazz offering 80 percent discount on his jersey (and Paul Millsap’s). Will meet with Bobcats Wednesday. JULY 4 UPDATE — He surprised the entire NBA by agreeing to terms with the Charlotte Bobcats on a three-year deal worth $41 million. The final year has an opt-out.

IND_West_David4. David West (Power Forward, Indiana Pacers)

A run to the conference finals could not have come at a better time for West, who had made it known (as had the Pacers) that his preference is to remain in Indianapolis, where he is perfectly cast as a third scorer and is depended on mostly for his sweet mid-range touch and tenacity in the paint.  Paul George hits the market next summer, and returning president Larry Bird says West is No. 1 priority but Pacers will not pay luxury tax under any circumstances. JULY 3 UPDATE — David West has agreed to re-sign with the Indiana Pacers on a three-year, $36 million deal. 

ATL_Smith_Josh5. Josh Smith (Power Forward, Atlanta Hawks)

J-Smoove made headlines this past season when he made it known he would be seeking a four-year max deal worth upwards of $15 million per year. It is difficult to justify paying that kind of money to a player who has not made a single All-Star team in nine years. Still, Smith is one of the most effective defensive players in the league and an explosive finisher in the paint. But which GM will risk his reputation on Smith? That’s a big question. JULY 1 UPDATE — Met with Pistons president Joe Dumars, who is unwilling to make a max offer. Then met with Rockets, who would try to add him in a sign-and-trade with Atlanta if Howard picks Houston. JULY 4 UPDATE — Smith has not been offered the max deal he was looking for, but the Houston Rockets would like to pair him with Howard if D12 signs on. Smith would like for that to happen, yet another waiting on D12. JULY 5 UPDATE — Omer Asik is being dangled to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for a sign-and-trade deal that sends Smith to the Hawks to form the worst free-throw shooting frontcourt in recent memory… IF Dwight signs with the Rockets. JULY 6 UPDATE — Now that Howard has agreed to join the Rockets, general manager Daryl Morey is expected to intensify his pursuit of Smith. JULY 6 UPDATE (2) — After hearing that Smith was potentially headed to the Houston Rockets to be paired up with childhood friend, Dwight Howard, it was first reported by Yahoo! Sports that Smith had agreed to terms with the Detroit Pistons on a four-year deal worth $56 million. That less than the max. he was looking for, but it was probably the best offer out there for him. Smith is the final member of the SH Top 5 to be signed.

MIN_Pekovic_Nikola6. Nikola Pekovic [R] (Center, Minnesota Timberwolves)

Guaranteed to be this year’s recipient of a fat, risky contract. Although significantly older than Omer Asik, Big Pek has a higher upside and more polished offensive game. When it comes to big men, general managers roll the dice quite often. We will see it with Andrew Bynum and we will see it with Pekovic. But the thinking here is that Pekovic will get more money — unless he gets hurt bowling. JULY 2 UPDATE — Quiet on this front, although the Cavs are reportedly interested. Have cap flexibility to offer backloaded contract. He is waiting on Dwight to make his Dwecision. JULY 4 UPDATE — The Timberwolves, according to the Pioneer Press, want to bring Pekovic back. There will be a bidding war over Pek, though. We guarantee it. JULY 6 UPDATE — With Howard off the market, Pekovic becomes the top center on the market, and arguably the top free agent, depending on how you rank him, head-to-head with Josh Smith. Pek’s time to get paid is coming, whether it be with the Timberwolves or another team. 

Iguodala-Denver7. Andre Iguodala (Small Forward, Denver Nuggets)

Interesting question: Who is worth more to you? Iggy? Or Monta Ellis? If you answer Ellis, it probably means you overvalue a volume scorer who cannot elevate his teammates. If you answer Iggy, though, it means that you properly recognize and appreciate his ability to affect every single facet of any game he plays, even if he is not shooting or scoring particularly well. A great defender — and GMs value that nowadays more than they used to. JULY 3 UPDATE — Kings offered a four-year, $52 million deal, but pulled it after not being given an immediate “Yes.” JULY 5 UPDATE – Nuggets offered more money, but Iggy chose to sign with the Warriors, who were positively Dolanesque in their willingness to pay a very steep price.

ELLIS_MONTA-bucks8. Monta Ellis (Shooting Guard, Milwaukee Bucks)

The secret is out: Ellis is a volume scorer who is probably best served as a sixth man who’s only responsibility is to light it up off the bench. Only problem? He turned down a two-year, $24 million extension from the Bucks that we think was more than fair. If Ellis is looking for more on the open market, it shows that he has a false sense of his value. A very talented player, he should draw interest from a team that has cap space and a dearth of options as to whom to spend it on. JULY 1 UPDATE — Knicks are interested, but can only offer $3.2 million. Nobody takes a $9 million haircut. JULY 4 UPDATE — With J.R. Smith, Tony Allen, Tyreke Evans and Kyle Korver all off the market, Ellis and O.J. Mayo are the top shooting guards out there. We peg Ellis’ fair market value at four years, $36-$40 million. JULY 6 UPDATE — Ellis is all but guaranteed to find a new home, as the Milwaukee Bucks have agreed to terms with O.J. Mayo. That’s the bad news for Ellis. The good news? He is arguably the best scorer still available on the market, and there are teams with cap space that still need a scorer. The Nuggets are said to have some interest after being spurned by Andre Iguodala.

SAC_Evans_Tyreke9. Tyreke Evans [R] (Point Guard/Small Forward, Sacramento Kings)

One of this generation’s enigmas, Evans is still searching for the touch that enabled him to become one of the few rookies in history to average 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Still just 23, NBA GMs will think a new coach and system can re-tap that potential, and potential gets you paid. The Kings will have a new coach and a new system, so they should have a “should we match?” question on their hands come July 10. JULY 2 UPDATE — Pelicans have made a four year offer for between $40-$48 million. See how Reggie Miller reacted. JULY 3 UPDATE — Though it does not hold much weight, Evans has reportedly let it be known that he wants a change of scenery and hopes to end up with the PelicansJULY 4 UPDATE — Evans will get his wish and be dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans. He will sign a four-year deal worth $44 million once the moratorium is over on July 10.

ATL_Teague_Jeff10. Jeff Teague [R] (Point Guard, Atlanta Hawks)

Perhaps the most intriguing young point guard on the market, his value has been established at about $8-$9 million thanks to the extensions doled out to Jrue Holiday and Ty Lawson. He probably stays in Atlanta, though in-demand restricted free agents sometimes get overpaid. (Ask Landry Fields.) Much depends on what GM Danny Ferry pulls off with all his cap space. For a team with only five players under contract (not counting draftees), he is somewhat expendable given that Lou Williams is one of those five. JULY 1 UPDATE — Where does Teague rank among point guards? Read this. JULY 3 UPDATE – Bucks coach Larry Drew likes him and would like Milwaukee to pursue. 

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Mighty Moke’s Top 50 Free Agents – July 4 Update

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JR Smith

J.R. Smith Will Remain in New York

Finally, a thing (or two) for fans of the New York Knicks to smile about.

The Knicks have agreed to terms with both J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni.

Smith is set to return to Gotham City on a four-year deal that is expected to be worth right around $25 million, while Prigioni has agreed to a three-year deal worth a reported $5 million. The Knicks used a portion of their taxpayer exception to re-sign Prigioni, and now have about $1.75 million of it remaining. They still hope to retain Chris Copeland, but he is receiving tons of interest on the open market.

Even still, on July 4, as scores of Americans settle down in front of their grills and watch some fireworks, Jim Dolan’s annual BBQ extravaganza will probably be a bit more festive than usual.

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Mighty Moke’s Top 50 Free Agents – July 3 Update

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Dwight Howard

Like LeBron in 2010, Dwight Howard is 2013′s Biggest Prize

July 2 was a pretty busy day in NBA free agency. July 5 will be an even busier day — if that is when Dwight Hoard makes his “Dwecision.”

Amongst other things, the Oklahoma City Thunder have now pretty much lost James Harden for nothing after Kevin Martin agreed to sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves for four years and $28 million. In order to clear the space, the T-Wolves may have to renounce Andrei Kirilenko, making our No. 18 a virtual certainty to switch teams.

David West became the second member of the top five (Chris Paul was the first) to take himself off the market. West agreed to re-sign with the Indiana Pacers for a number that we believe is quite reasonable for West. Check the out the details below, and know that the Pacers also rescinded the qualifying offer they extended to Tyler Hanbrough. As a result, he is now an unrestricted free agent.

And yes, the Los Angeles Lakers finally got their sitdown with Howard. They did not bring Magic Johnson or any other Lakers legends with them, but they did give Dwight an iPad featuring images of him donning the purple and gold.

So, we continue to wait on The Dwecision and which mountain Dwight will ascend, but there were plenty of other moves made on Tuesday. And once Howard’s decision is made—which some reports say may come as early as July 5—we can expect some of the other big dominoes to fall.

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