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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PODCAST: Previewing clash of Western Conference Titans Golden State and San Antonio

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iguodalaThere is a lot of excitement in the Bay Area regarding the Golden State Warriors, who are atop the Western Conference alongside the San Antonio Spurs — their opponent tonight in a nationally televised game.

(The Warriors are 5-point underdogs, which seems a bit much for me. I also like the over 204 — not that I am wagering or anything.)

The missing link for this team has been Andre Iguodala, whose offense has been spectacular for a team averaging more than 110 points per game. Every member of the ‘Dubs starting five is shooting over 50 percent from the field, and Klay Thompson has been unreal from 3-point range.

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

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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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Five Things to Watch: San Antonio Spurs

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Kawhi Leonard

Shoulda, coulda, woulda. We all remember Game 6 of the NBA Finals, correct?

And we all remember Game 7, and the way Tim Duncan looked afterward — like he was at a funeral. The Big Fundamental had been spoiled, winning every previous time he had advanced to the Finals.

So the question to ask going into 2013-14 — will this be Spurs Motivation 2.0?

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SH Blog: Doc to the Clippers is really, truly dead (apparently); Chandler Parsons and Dwight Howard are text buddies

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Doc_RiversThe NBA landscape over the last week has been dominated by two things: the Finals, obviously, and the Doc Rivers trade talks (do they have a name yet? Doc-umentary?). But now it’s time to abruptly shift gears, from a thrilling final series to a wide-open draft class. In Joe Kotoch’s latest mock, it seems the Cavs have locked in on one candidate for the #1 pick — Alex Len, and can obtain Shawn Marion in a trade that would give Mark Cuban his cap space and allow the Cavs to gain a second lottery pick.

Thursday night should be a lot of fun.

As for the Doc situation, there doesn’t appear to be much life left in those negotiations, so what remains to be seen is whether Rivers returns to coach the Celtics or retires to go back to TV. If he goes to TV, it will have a lot to do with Rivers’ strained relationship Rajon Rondo, according to Chris Sheridan.

That Rivers news kicks off our daily roundup of the latest NBA news:

  • The Doc Rivers to the Clippers talks are dead, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: “Ainge had wanted a first-round draft pick from the Clippers to let Rivers out of his contract, but the Clippers offered only a future second-round pick, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. Within the NBA, there had been growing doubt that owner Donald Sterling wanted to pay the five-year, $35 million contract he had negotiated with Rivers, nor give up any first-round picks in the deal. Free-agent star Chris Paul pushed the Clippers to hire Rivers as coach, but will have to settle for Lionel Hollins, Brian Shaw or Byron Scott if he plans to re-sign with Los Angeles in July. Paul is unhappy with the fallout over the failed deal, sources told Yahoo! Sports on Friday night. Rivers plans to have a decision on Monday. He is choosing between staying with Boston for his 10th season or leaving for television. If Rivers does leave the job, the Celtics will still require compensation before he can accept a job elsewhere in the NBA.”
  • Further corroboration comes from Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: “In the wake of a collapse in talks between the Celtics and Clippers over the release of Doc Rivers from his contract, a source has told the Herald that discussions between the teams for Kevin Garnett are “probably” dead as well. A long proposed swap of Garnett for Clippers center DeAndre Jordan had been given second priority during the Rivers discussions. But Garnett, who has veto power over any trade, may not have many other locations he will approve. The Clippers made sense to the 37-year-old center because of his home in Malibu, and the chance to continue playing for Rivers. Asked if this could mean a Garnett return to the Celtics for next season, the source said, “KG in Boston is a very good option.” The source stressed that none of Danny Ainge’s deliberations are linked. As such, Paul Pierce’s future as a Celtic remains uncertain. The team can buy out the Celtics captain for $5 million on or before June 30, and record $10 million in cap savings. Asked about assertions from the Clippers that talks for Rivers are still alive, the source laughed and said, “No, it’s dead.” “

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