Moke Hamilton Bids Farewell to SheridanHoops and our Readers

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missjamaicaEven from the iron shores of Montego Bay and the congested streets of Kingston, Jamaica, New York City remains on my mind.

As I journeyed from the West end of the island of Jamaica over to the East, and as I have interacted with members of Jamaica’s basketball community and chatted up fans of the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets—yes, they are down here in Jamaica, too—I look forward to what promises to be an exciting NBA season for the city I have called home for so many years.

And here, at SheridanHoops.com, I have had a great home for the past two.

Covering the Knicks, the NBA Finals, drafts and free agency has been great. For as long as I have known of Chris Sheridan—long before I knew him, personally—I appreciated him.

I appreciated the hard-line stances he took with some of his opinions, no matter how zany I thought they were.

I appreciated his candor and honesty when critiquing the work of a young writer who he thought had potential.

And I certainly appreciated his battling the traffic of the Henry Hudson and Grand Central Parkways, driving from Yonkers, New York down to Kew Gardens to sign me on as a writer for the then-infant SheridanHoops.com.

My first work here was a reflection on Glen Grunwald’s bold move to amnesty Chauncey Billups and sign Tyson Chandler.

At the time, I acknowledged that not saving the amnesty clause for Amar’e Stoudemire may be a decision that comes back to bite the Knicks in the long run.

But those pesky Knicks fans would not and could not allow me—some kid whom they had never heard of—dare douse water on the conflagration of hope that Grunwald’s bold maneuver built.

And that is what I appreciate most of all—even more than Chris, himself.

You.

The readers.

Without the feedback and without the intelligent discourse and dialogue, there is simply no way for a young writer to improve. Our readers make us and our Twitter followers provide an unlimited and ever-present sounding board for random thoughts and observations.

knicks small logobrooklyn nets small logoSo as I look forward to Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace doing battle with Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez… I can’t help but to think back to when I first began here at SheridanHoops.

The Nets were still in Newark and the Knicks hadn’t won a playoff game in too many years to count.

Now, all hell will break loose for the right to be crowned Atlantic Division champions.

And for those Nets fans beating their chests and acting as if the Nets have already clinched the second seed in the Eastern Conference, go have a conversation or two with a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Last season’s Lakers debacle taught everyone, including me, that nothing is promised in this league.

Knicks fans, though, would be wise to remember that as well. Last season’s 54-win campaign guarantees nothing for the coming season, especially when one considers that the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers stand to be much better next season.

And while I write this column from sunny Jamaica and ponder the season ahead, I cannot help but to think of what is behind.

Those two great years.

(Moke covered the title-clinching games in 2012 and 2013. Both columns were fantastic. Here is the link to Game 5 of the 2012 Finals, and here is Moke’s column after Game 7 of the 2013 finals-CS).

When Chris initially asked me to write a “farewell” column, it seemed a bit too much. Too dramatic.

As of now, I am a young journalist, ever-seeking the tricks to improve at my craft. I am far from a “big deal,” and my departure probably does not warrant any special emphasis on the site.

Those were my thoughts.

And though I initially opted not to, I realized that the readers of this site deserved a sincere “thank you” from me.

Not on Twitter, but on this site.

A wise friend of mine once told me to follow the breadcrumbs, and Mel, that is what I am doing.

As a professional, and under Chris’ tutelage, that journey began here.

For sure, that is not something I will ever forget.

Thanks Chris. Thanks for taking the courageous step in building this great site, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to interact with a group of readers who represent those that prefer in-depth basketball content.

And thanks to you, the readers, for making this site succeed. And thanks for making me want to.

- Moke

Moke Hamilton has covered the Knicks, NBA Finals, and free agency for SheridanHoops since the 2011-12 season. He is now moving to HOOPSWORLD, a USA Today Sports property, and will serve as an NBA Analyst for SportsNet New York. Follow him on Twitter.

SH Blog: Dwyane Wade’s Ex Stages Sidewalk Protest; Derrick Rose to Play Sunday? Ode to Moke

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mokeheBefore we get to today’s news, a hearty congratulations to our senior columnist, Moke Hamilton, on joining the staff at HoopsWorld. Moke has treated me as his mentor, and I am happy to see him graduate to become a part of the USA Today Sports group. He is a terrific writer, a fast learner, MENSA material (even though he had never heard of MENSA when he joined SheridanHoops), and a wonderful storyteller who covered Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals and Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals for this site.

Moke also is a good friend, and if the stars align properly, we will be wingmen in Caracas, Venezuela, at the Tournament of the Americas this September. (Rule of thumb: Whenever a Miss Universe Pageant is held, Miss Venezuela is the favorite).

Over/under on when Moke gets an offer from ESPN: July 20, 2014.

Moke will remain at this site through the end of this month, and his latest list of the Top 25 remaining Free Agents was updated today. Check it out. Still some good players left.

I was thinking of staging a sidewalk protest outside of Steve Kyler’s headquarters, but then I realized I’d just be copycating Dwyane Wade’s ex-wife.

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Mighty Moke’s Top 25 Remaining Free Agents — July 14 Update

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Brandon Jennings

Brandon Jennings

When Monday morning rolls around and the NBA free agency period continues, the biggest winner over the weekend will not be Metta World Peace and it will not be Jeff Teague.

Brandon Jennings is now the man with much of the power.

Over the weekend, it was reported that the Atlanta Hawks decided to match the four-year, $32 million offer sheet that Teague signed with the Milwaukee Bucks. As a result, Teague will remain a Hawk for the foreseeable future, and will be paid rather handsomely to do so.

The $32 million deal Teague will play under represents fair market value for a young point guard who is coming off of his most productive season, where he helped the Atlanta Hawks to a sixth straight postseason appearance while averaging 14.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 7.2 assists per game.

But now, the Bucks will have to answer to Jennings—who reportedly told the Bucks that it would take $12 million a year for him to re-sign a multi-year extension with them.

The message to Jennings was sent, his team preferred another man. And now that Teague is back in Atlanta, the Bucks face the very real possibility of Jennings, having felt alienated by the club, not backing off from his salary demands. As it stands, Jennings still has the option of accepting the Bucks one-year qualifying offer worth $4.5 million, and may become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

The Los Angeles Lakers—Jennings’ hometown team—will have cap space to throw at him if they choose to do so.

For the Bucks, herein lies the quandary: attracting young free agents to Milwaukee may prove difficult, and sometimes, especially for a small market NBA team, it is better to love the one you are with if you cannot be with the one you love. In other words, the Bucks may be better off trying to come to a long-term agreement with Jennings rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer.

There are arguments both for and against retaining Jennings, though $12 million may be too high of a number. Either way, eyes will now be firmly fixed on Jennings’ free agency and how his situation with the Bucks plays out. Obviously, a sign-and-trade deal remains a possibility, as well. Maybe even the likeliest one.

Metta World Peace

Metta World Peace

The other major news to come out of this past weekend was Metta World Peace’s clearing amnesty waivers without being claimed.

As of 5:00pm ET on Sunday, World Peace became an unrestricted free agent and is expected to sign with either the Los Angeles Clippers or New York Knicks. The more time elapses, the more team names seem to be added to the list of his potential landing spots, but World Peace’s father has, Ron, Sr., has been steadfast in saying that he believes World Peace would end up with the Knicks if he cleared. And he did.

The Knicks—who suddenly have a much less talented roster than the Brooklyn Nets do—need to make a splash and their poor cap situation and dearth of tradable assets means they need to get lucky in order to do so. Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Jeremy Tyler, both of whom are competing for the Knicks summer league team in Las Vegas, have both had their moments. But the third tier of free agents—such as World Peace—is where the Knicks need to have some sort of success if they are to repeat as Atlantic Division champions for the first time since they won back-to-back division titles in 1993 and 1994.

With Nikola Pekovic all but certain to re-sign in Minnesota on a four-year deal worth $50 million and Monta Ellis agreeing to terms with the Dallas Mavericks, Teague’s offer being matched by the Hawks means that Jennings is now our number one free agent on the market. There still is an abundance of talent out there, though, and quite a few guys are still getting some attention.

Dejuan Blair, No. 21 on our list, is reportedly receiving some interest from the Washington Wizards while Nate Robinson, who has had conversations with multiple teams, sounds to be close to signing with the Denver Nuggets.

Mo Williams, Aaron Brooks, Samuel Dalembert and Elton Brand are still out there, as well.

One other name, who is no longer available, is Wesley Johnson. The Los Angeles Lakers, obviously the biggest losers in this year’s free agent market, continue their makeover after losing Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets. The Lakers are reportedly wooing Lamar Oodom for a potential return and have followed up the signings of Nick Young, Chris Kaman and Jordan Farmar with another veteran’s minimum signing—Wesley Johnson.

Johnson was selected with the No. 4 pick in the 2010 draft, and the Lakers hope to tap into his potential and get something out of him.

In the meantime, how’s about a little love for the biggest winners this offseason? We will rank them soon enough, but after the Houston Rockets and Brooklyn Nets, a round of applause is in order (though in no particular order) for the Golden State Warriors, New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Clippers, and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Here are your updated free agency rankings…

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Mighty Moke’s Top 25 Remaining Free Agents – July 11 Update

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kirilenkokirilenko1Haircut of the summer? We have a winner!

Andrei Kirilenko, who opted out of a $10.2 million payday with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the hopes landing a three- or four-year deal, has agreed to join the Brooklyn Nets for a shade less than $3.2 million.

How many millions did he sacrifice? To paraphrase you know who: “Not four, not five, not six …”

No word yet on whether Mickhael Prokhorov slipped a bag of diamonds under the negotiating table. We wouldn’t put it past him. Prokhorov was formerly Andrei Kirilenko’s employer when the Russian forward played for CSKA Moscow from 1998 to 2001.

But this we know for sure: The Brooklyn Nets have absolutely loaded up this summer, landing Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and now Kirilenko, one of the most versatile offensive and defensive players in the league. He will presumably be the backup to Pierce at small forward, split time with Andray Blatche backing up Garnett at the 4 spot.

It is an astoundingly great pickup for the Nets, who will be the favorites to win the Atlantic Division this season. Moreover, it’s fair to say this was the best bargain buy in Brooklyn since the yuppies took over DUMBO 15 years ago.

 

On Wednesday, the news of the day was Andrew Bynum’s signing a partially guaranteed two-year deal to become a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Dan Gilbert took a calculated risk in inking the 25-year old Bynum to a two-year deal worth $24.5 million. Some reports say that just $6 million is guaranteed, while some other seems to suggest that $12 million is guaranteed.

And on the second day after the moratorium has been lifted, we finally have some news on Atlanta Hawks restricted free agent, Jeff Teague. Teague has signed a four-year offer sheet worth $32 million with the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks, it would seem, prefer Teague as the team’s point man over incumbent, Brandon Jennings. Jennings, also a restricted free agent, apparently told the Bucks that he would re-sign in Milwaukee for $12 million per year—more money than both Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo are signed for.

The Bucks, it seems, are not prepared to pay Jennings so much. That, as well as the fact that Teague’s coach from the Hawks, Larry Drew, has recently been hired as the head man in Milwaukee probably have something to do with the offer sheet being tendered to Teague.

Though Teague has let it be known that he would prefer to move on from Atlanta, Hawks general manager Danny Ferry has let it be known that the franchise values Teague and has not committed to letting him walk. Teague provides good value at $8 million per year, so we would not be shocked to see the Hawks match the offer. We will find out shortly.

In other news, Chauncey Billups has decided to return to the site of his best basketball accomplishments—Detroit. Billups agreed to sign with the Pistons yesterday to the tune of two years, $5 million. The Pistons, obviously, are not in contention this season, so the guess here is that Billups is re-signing in Detroit as a precursor to eventually landing on the team’s bench as an assistant coach or in the front office.

Another guard we have kept close tabs on—and perhaps the top free agent on the market since Nikola Pekovic is returning to Minnesota—is Monta Ellis. Ellis has not received much love on the free agent market, but that may be about to change. After amnestying Tyrus Thomas, the Bobcats created enough salary cap room to sign Al Jefferson to a three-year deal worth $41 million, and could still manufacture enough room to ink another free agent to a deal beginning around $10 million if the club opts to not re-sign restricted free agent Gerald Henderson.

The Bobcats are considering doing just that after reaching an impasse with Henderson, and have let Ellis’ camp know that they may be interested.

As for Bynum, he has found a new home, and if he is simply able to take the court in a single game for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he will have enjoyed a more successful tenure with Kyrie Irving than he did with Jrue Holiday and the Philadelphia 76ers.

If he can, LeBron James may have even more incentive to consider the Cavaliers if he opts out of his Miami Heat contract after this coming season.

The deal for Bynum cames on the same day we learned that Nikola Pekovic would be re-signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves to the tune of four-years, $50 million. While Pekovic’s deal is not officially inked yet, it should just be a matter of time.

And now, we will continue to wait for Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to make a splash this offseason. Word is, Samuel Dalembert and Greg Oden are the two big men on the Mavericks radar at the moment.

The nice thing about the scrap heap of free agency is that there are still quite a few available players who can help a team. Greg Stiemsma found himself off of the market, thanks to the New Orleans Pelicans one-year offer for just north of $2 million. Aaron Brooks, Gary Neal and even Beno Udrih still provide good value for a GM’s dollars, and Elton Brand, Samuel Dalembert, Byron Mullens and even Dejuan Blair have something meaningful to contribute.

Think of free agency as a fantasy league draft. In round one and round two, you get anchors for your team, but the sneaky signings in the middle rounds are what can lead one to a league championship. It is somewhat similar in real life, as well.

Today, the NBA’s moratorium on free agent signings has been lifted and Dwight Howard will soon officially a member of the Houston Rockets, Andre Iguodala has been officially been signed-and-traded to the Golden State Warriors and Al Jefferson will soon team up with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and attempt to make the Charlotte Bobcats final season as the “Bobcats” a bit more successful than last season’s 21-61 campaign.

Chris Paul and David West opted to stay put with the Los Angeles Clippers and Indiana Pacers, respectively, while Josh Smith (Detroit Pistons), Tyreke Evans (New Orleans Pelicans) and Paul Millsap (Atlanta Hawks) will don new uniforms for the first times in their careers.

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Podcast: Discussing the Top 50 Free Agents

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We have published our Top 50 Free Agents, but there are well over 100 of them.

Dwight Howard is No. 1, but our No. 2 guy, Chris Paul, is almost certain to stay with Doc Rivers and the Clippers.

So who will be the top dominoes once Dwight maks his “Dwecision?” Moke Hamilton joined Fred Faour of Yahoo Sports Radio to discuss.

Listen to internet radio with Sheridan Hoops Radio on BlogTalkRadio