Bernucca: No extensions will be best thing for Bledsoe, Vasquez


Ryan McDonough GM SunsWhen the deadline for contract extensions came and went Thursday night, point guards Eric Bledsoe and Greivis Vasquez didn’t get paid.

But don’t shed any tears for them. Because when the summer rolls around, they will get their money. And it might be GMs Ryan McDonough of Phoenix and Pete D’Alessandro of Sacramento who are crying.

As reluctant as McDonough and D’Alessandro may have been to pony up for point guards with plenty to prove, they should have done so. Both GMs are relatively young, so they may not remember this commercial from the early 1980s that came with good advice.

You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.

Both GMs chose to potentially pay their players later, and it may cost them millions, given the numbers Bledsoe and Vasquez have a chance to put up this season as they enter a fallow free agent market.

Yes, there’s plenty of big names headed to free agency next summer – Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol and Zach Randolph, just to name a few.

Notice anything about the guys on that list?

None are point guards.

Here are the best veteran free agent point guards on the market next summer: Mario Chalmers, Devin Harris, Ramon Sessions, Kirk Hinrich, Rodney Stuckey, Steve Blake, Beno Udrih, Luke Ridnour and Kyle Lowry. In addition, Jameer Nelson could be available if Orlando (or another team) buys out his $2 million guarantee for 2014-15. All capable players – with a combined two All-Star berths among them.

Bledsoe turns just 24 next summer and Vasquez will be 27. Even as restricted free agents with shorter resumes, they immediately go to the top of that list.

The Suns snared Bledsoe in the summer, when the Clippers realized they wouldn’t be able to pay him and decided Phoenix Suns vs Maccabi Haifato get something for him now rather than later. Apparently, Clippers GM Gary Sacks has seen the commercial. McDonough smartly saw him as an ideal piece to his rebuilding project in the Valley, a young player with a high ceiling.

But Bledsoe had never been a starter, and McDonough was understandably apprehensive about giving him starter’s money. The GM also had the more established Goran Dragic’s three remaining years as an insurance policy, so he decided not to pull the trigger on a deal that probably would have cost him anywhere from $32 million to $40 million over four years.

Less than 24 hours later, Bledsoe began his salary drive by scoring Phoenix’s final 14 points vs. Utah, including the game-winning 3-pointer in the final second.

The Kings also acquired Vasquez in the summer as part of the sign-and-trade deal that sent Tyreke Evans to New Orleans. Last season – his first as a starter – Vasquez averaged 13.9 points and 9.0 assists. The only point guard with better numbers in both categories was a guy named Chris Paul.

But D’Alessandro had to drop $62 million to extend DeMarcus Cousins, whom new owner Vivek Ranadive anointed as a cornerstone. He also had an insurance policy in point guard Isaiah Thomas and chose not to extend Vasquez, probably at around $10 million per year.

Both GMs can match any offer Bledsoe and Vasquez get from other teams next summer. And there are going to be offers, because plenty of teams need point guards.

Like Toronto, which can let Lowry walk and put some of its young assets in a sign-and-trade.

Or Milwaukee, where Brandon Knight is not the long-term guy. The Bucks can get down to about $48 million if they don’t make a qualifying offer to the immortal Ekpe Udoh.

Or Orlando, which can get to about $34 million by buying out Nelson, declining some options and deciding if they are serious about making Victor Oladipo a point guard.

Want better landing spots? How about Miami, where Norris Cole is the only player on the books right now. The Heat could let Chris Bosh walk and target Bledsoe.

Or New York, where Raymond Felton really isn’t the answer. The Knicks don’t have any room, but that has never Steve Nashstopped them before.

Or Los Angeles, where Steve Nash could be moved into a backup mentor role in the last year of his deal while giving the reins to Vasquez or Bledsoe.

If Bledsoe gets a big offer next summer, McDonough can easily match because he could have as much as $25 million in cap room. But D’Alessandro can only get his payroll down to about $57 million – and that doesn’t factor in Thomas, who will be unrestricted.

In the NBA’s new financial age, teams are more reluctant to commit to long-term deals of any value because of the punitive repeater tax – which is exactly why McDonough should have signed Bledsoe and D’Alessandro should have signed Vasquez.

It’s hard to imagine either player costing less next summer.

TRIVIA: Who is the only active NBA player with championship rings from different teams? Answer below.

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Evening News: Extension talks stall between Bulls and Deng; Durant open to working with Olajuwon

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In today’s latest NBA news, Chicago and Luol Deng remain distant in negotiations for a contract extension, Kevin Durant tells the media that he would welcome an opportunity to train with Hakeem Olajuwon, and the Mavericks go bargain-hunting on another free agent big man.

Contract negotiations stall between Bulls and Deng

Sam Aggrey of Comcast SportsNet Chicago reports contract talks between the Chicago Bulls and their All Star swingman, Luol Deng, have hit an impasse. luol deng

Deng, who is entering the final year of his contract, figures to be one of the most coveted free agents on next summer’s open market.

While the Bulls would love to bring Deng back, the two-time All Star may price himself out of the Bulls’ comfort zone.

Deng’s representatives recently met with the Bulls’ front office in hopes of striking an extension before the start of the season. After discussions, however, Bulls’ GM Gar Forman informed Deng’s representatives that the team was not prepared to offer the star a longterm contract.

Deng is one of the league’s best two-way players and should command a contract surpassing that of Andre Iguodala’s four year, $48 million deal from Golden State this offseason.

At only 28, Deng is still in the prime of his career. He averaged 16.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and, most impressively, 38.7 minutes per game for Tom Thibodeau last season.


Kevin Durant open to working with Hakeem Olajuwon

Yesterday, we covered Hakeem Olajuwon’s desire to privately work with Kevin Durant. Today, NBA blogger Fernando Martin asked Durant what he thought of Olajuwon’s statement. Kevin Durant

As it turns out, the respect between the two superstars is mutual. While Durant is not exactly sure what he could learn from “The Dream,” he has not shut the door on a possible meet up in the future:

“I don’t know,” said Durant. “At this point there’s only one Hakeem Olajuwon. I don’t know how much he can really help me but of course I watched him as a kid and I watch films of him now. I just try to take some stuff out of his game and put it to mine’s, but it’s so hard to try to be like Hakeem Olajuwon. But I’m up for anything. I’m looking forward to learning from anybody, so… We’ll see.”

If the two were to meet up, it would have to be soon. Olajuwon will start working exclusively with the Houston Rockets as a coach at the start of the season.


Mavericks extend training camp invitation to Fab Melo

ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that the Dallas Mavericks are close to adding yet another big man to the team’s training camp roster:

Melo, who was the 22nd overall pick by the Boston Celtics in the 2012 NBA Draft, was traded to Memphis in a salary dump last month. He was subsequently released by the Grizzlies just two weeks after they acquired him.

The Mavericks have been trying to add depth to their front line all summer. After failing to land Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, or Greg Oden earlier in the the summer, the team has gone bargain instead. Melo will join Samuel Dalembert and Dejuan Blair in a refurbished Mavericks’ front court.

SH Blog: Grizzlies waive Fab Melo; Odom not being drug tested; 76ers not paying Royce White

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Fab Melo

In a rather surprising move, the Memphis Grizzlies opted to waive center Fab Melo, whom they acquired a little over two weeks ago via trade. Melo has struggled to gain any sort of consistency since entering the league, having spent much of last season in the D-League.

The Grizzlies released a statement:

The Memphis Grizzlies have waived center Fab Melo, the team announced today. Melo was originally acquired on August 14, 2013 in exchange for forward Donte Greene.

Entering his second NBA season, Melo (7-0, 255) saw action in six games last season with the Celtics averaging 1.2 points in six minutes per contest. He appeared in 33 games for the NBA Development League’s Maine Red Claws, where he averaged 9.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and a league-high 3.1 blocks in 26.2 minutes per game after being assigned to the Celtics affiliate on Nov. 14.

Drafted by Boston with the 22nd overall pick in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft, Melo decided to forgo his final two years at Syracuse University after being named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in his sophomore season. In two seasons at Syracuse, he averaged 4.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on .576 shooting in 17.3 minutes in 63 games (54 starts).

Having only played one season, Melo will be looking to find a spot on his third team in only a year. Not lacking in athleticism and certainly not in height, it will be interesting to see where the former Syracuse player winds up. There are certainly teams out there that could be willing to take Melo on as a project.

Melo will still collect $1.3 million this year, and on Twitter, he did not seem the least bit upset.

Onto other news from around the league:

  • OdomLamar Odom, who was arrested for suspicion of driving while intoxicated, is not being drug tested by the NBA. Here is a copy of his arrest report, and here is more on the situation from Ken Berger of “By itself, Odom’s arrest on suspicion of DUI would not be enough to trigger a probable-cause test under the NBA’s anti-drug program, league sources said. The league’s medical director and the players’ association would typically only be inclined to petition for such testing beyond the six random tests players already face if A) Odom were already in the league’s after-care program, or B) if a substance beyond alcohol were involved in his arrest. It is not known if Odom — who was suspended in 2001 for violating the league’s anti-drug policy twice in eight months — is in the NBA’s after-care program. What we do know is that as long as Odom is a free agent and not employed by an NBA team, he cannot be subjected to any league drug tests. That’s either a blessing or a curse for Odom. I fear it’s the latter, because clearly what he needs now more than anything is help.”
  • Dion+Waiters+2012+NBA+Rookie+Photo+Shoot+o6uZSTrTjiKlIn an interview with HOOPSWORLD; Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters made some rather ambitious statements. As he patiently waits to begin his second season, he made it quite clear what goals he has set for the coming year: “I just feel as though I’m next up as far as shooting guards. If you look around, you know, Kobe [Bryant] and [Dwyane] Wade and those guys, they paved the way for a player like me and they’re almost done. It’s not like that, but I’m just saying, I’m coming. I just want everybody to know that.” It should certainly be noted that the shooting guard position isn’t filled with as much depth across the league as say the point guard is, so there is definitely no reason to think that Waiters couldn’t rise into the top of that list at some point. Second among his rookie class in points per game, Waiters role is expected to increase on a Cleveland team that has it’s first legitimate shot at the playoffs since the departure of LeBron James and “The Decision”.
  • royce whiteThe Houston Rockets were so determined to get rid of Royce White, they agreed to pay his salary when they dumped him on the Philadelphia 76ers. From The Bucks County Courier-Times: “An NBA source said the Rockets, who dealt him to the Sixers on July 6 along with a second-round pick and Turkish power forward Furkan Aldemir for future considerations and cash, are picking up the $1.7 million salary of White, who has an anxiety disorder and is afraid to fly. That means the Sixers have nothing invested in White — and that the 21-year-old Aldemir was the primary target in the deal, which the source confirmed.” Think about what that means. Morey was so desperate to get White off his roster that he is paying his salary. That happens in baseball but it is virtually unheard of in the NBA. There is NO WAY Sixers GM Sam Hinkie is picking up White’s third year option in October.
  • Amir JohnsonAs the offseason continues to drag on, there are plenty of unusual yet intriguing stories to keep track of. Amir Johnson of the Toronto Raptors certainly didn’t mind sharing what he’s been up as he took to sharing a rather interesting picture on his instagram  today. Taking advantage of the limited days he has left before he has to report for Training Camp, Johnson has managed to elevate himself even more atop the back of an elephant. It’s good to see him getting the most out of his vacation as he enjoys his downtime. The Raptors are another team looking to make noise this upcoming season in the East, and a rejuvenated Johnson is expected to play a large role in that. Check out our Raptors preview.
  • act_caron_butlerCaron Butler appears to be optimistic about the chances of the Milwaukee Bucks after being traded there earlier this week. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Racine Journal Times, Butler feels that he could provide a prominent role for a revamped Milwaukee team: “I think we’re going to be good, I really think we are,’ Butler said. ‘Adding myself to a team that has a dynamic scorer in O.J. Mayo, to a team that has a talented young point guard in (Brandon) Knight and has good big men like (Larry) Sanders and (Ersan) Ilyasova and other guys like Gary Neal … we can be really good. I think this will be the ideal situation for me and my family.” Butler has seen a decrease in production his past two seasons for the Los Angeles Clippers due to injuries and less minutes per game (24.1 last season). While he may be a far cry from his All Star days, it’s possible that he could serve as an impactful veteran for the franchise.
  • Quentin RichardsonIt is good to be Quentin Richardson. First, you get signed and traded by the Knicks in order to facilitate the Andrea Bargnani deal. Then, you get waived — but still get your paycheck — and get to start looking for what Melo tweeted about before — a second paycheck. From Matt Moore of CBS “The Toronto Raptors have waived veteran swingman Quentin Richardson. Richardson was acquired in a sign-and-trade with the Knicks in order to fill out trade requirements in the Andrea Bargnani deal. So Richardson was traded to the Magic, didn’t play, got waived and paid, signed with the Knicks, didn’t play, then got signed and traded, then waived before he could play. This dude’s hourly rate over the past year is insane. The assumption is going to be that Richardson, 33, can get on with another team. But veterans like him always seem to wind up on squads one way or another.


Previous blog: Hawks coach Mike Budenholder arrested for DUI; Bogut’s ankle to be treated as though it is 100 percent.

Esau Howard is a regular contributor to Follow him on Twitter.

StatBox Free Agency Breakdown: Grizzlies hope Fab Melo amounts to something after Celtics give up

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In a seemingly minor trade, two former first-round picks from Syracuse were swapped for one another Thursday. Boston sent 2012 first-rounder Fab Melo to Memphis for the non-guaranteed contract of Donte Greene. This trade has relatively minor implications, but an impact nonetheless that will be laid out.

Screen Shot 2013-08-16 at 11.45.28 AMIt would be a surprise if Greene plays a single minute for the Celtics. The former Sacramento King didn’t play last season after breaking his ankle last summer. This was after a 2011-2012 season where he shot 40.6 percent from the field (exactly his career average) and a horrific 23.8 percent from the arc.

Even with this ghastly percentage, Greene still managed to hoist two 3-pointers per content in 53 games. Perplexing. Despite being nearly 7 feet tall, he has averaged just 5.1 rebounds per 36 minutes over his four-year career.

Evening News: Kupchak calls Kobe “a big question mark”; Celtics give up on 2012 first round pick

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What’s happening in the NBA today?

The Lakers front office spoke publicly about Kobe Bryant’s rehabilitation and the Celtics traded their first round pick from last year to Memphis.