Bernucca: You Can Have the NCAA Tournament


sportsWICHITAstate_t640I don’t like the NCAA Tournament.

I don’t like that college basketball’s regular season provides little postseason incentive. I don’t like that the coach is a bigger personality than the players. I don’t like that the games are played on neutral courts. I don’t like that one bad game or bad call or bad break can end a team’s season. I don’t like that “close” becomes a synonym for “well-played.” And I don’t like that poor play determines the outcome much more often than great play.

Most of all, I don’t like how I’m supposed to just accept that it’s fantastic and wonderful and beautiful, when it’s actually substandard basketball in a flawed format that tells me less and less every year about the game I love, which is the NBA.

I’m not trolling here. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’ve truly felt this way for a while. Part of it is admittedly a lingering distaste developed over more than a decade of working on a sports news desk and spending countless hours having to plan, preview, write, edit, update and package all of the words and numbers associated with the NCAA Tournament.

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Bernucca: Among the Elite, Thunder the Team to Beat

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Kawhi Leonard A look at the overall NBA standings shows four teams at the top – Indiana, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Miami – separated by one game in the loss column. In fact, they were dead even until three of them lost Sunday. 

Just a notch below them are three more teams – Houston, the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland – separated by two games in the loss column. They also would have been dead even had the Blazers held on Sunday against the Rockets.

Let’s call these teams the Magnificent Seven, because your NBA champion is somewhere among them. Dismiss any of them at your own peril; these are the only teams who, at the season’s three-quarter pole, have won at least two-third of their games.

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SH Blog: Knicks offer Phil Jackson front-office job; how likely is LeBron returning to Cleveland?

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Phil JacksonThe cynic in me wonders if this is all a ploy to keep Carmelo Anthony in New York. The rest of me wants the cynic to quit trying to ascribe ulterior motives to good decisions. Phil Jackson would probably do a pretty good job running the Knicks, and his years of working with Kobe Bryant should prepare him well should he end up working with Melo.

Ken Berger of

Phil Jackson is seriously considering the Knicks’ offer to join their front office in a role that would give him final say on basketball decisions, a league source told on Saturday.

Jackson, 68, is said to be leaning toward taking the job if the structure is right, said the source, who has been briefed on the Knicks’ conversations with the 13-time NBA champion.

Jackson is considering a front office structure with Steve Mills and Allan Houston handling the day-to-day duties while reporting to Jackson, the person said. At this point, it is not clear whether the rest of the Knicks’ front-office lieutenants would stay if Jackson were to take the job.

Jackson, an 11-time champion as a coach — and two-time champion as a player for the Knicks — has stated he is finished on the sideline. The Knicks’ front-office job is extremely appealing to him “if the setup is right,” the person briefed on the discussions said.

But that, according to league sources, may be a big obstacle given Madison Square Garden’s complicated corporate structure and the overbearing influence of owner and Garden chairman James Dolan.

Jackson recently told USA Today that he was speaking with several teams about various front office roles. Indeed, the Knicks’ opportunity is not the only one he is considering. Jackson was expected to head up basketball operations for the Kings franchise if it had moved to Seattle last year.


170px-LebronFT2This season is just going from bad to worse to the absolute worst for the Cavs. After early returns suggested Chris Grant botched another lottery pick, he was fired, and while that means the Cavs might be better in the long run, it also may mean they lose out on the game’s best player, and the whole “return of the prodigal son” story.

Brian Windhorst of

The Cavs even chose this date in October after consulting with James on whether he’d be able to fly over from Chicago, where the Heat are staying on an off night. Technically, James is coming at Ilgauskas’ request, but the process of picking the game revolved around James’ schedule and was orchestrated by the Cavs.

This is one of the reasons why over the past year, the Cavs have started to genuinely believe there was a chance they could get James to return in free agency this summer. The thaw between James and Cleveland and James and the Cavs organization has been clear. The Cavs even started making roster moves — signing players on short contracts like Andrew Bynum, Earl Clark and Luol Deng — to try to assure they would have open cap space in order to sign him.

But however large the crack might have truly been, that door has virtually slammed shut now for reasons both within and outside the Cavs’ control.

There were two people within the Cavs organization with whom James maintained good relations over the past four years. They were general manager Chris Grant and Ilgauskas, who joined the team’s front office in 2012 after his retirement.

Grant was fired last month, blamed for the Cavs’ underwhelming season, while some of his recent draft picks were heavy scrutinized. Ilgauskas, meanwhile, has taken on a reduced role.

Grant was not without his flaws — this season did not go the way he plotted it at all and the blame was reasonable. James, however, was not among those who criticized Grant’s draft picks and saw good futures for Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett.

“If they get things in order, they have some really good pieces here,” James said after a game in Cleveland earlier this season. “We’ll see what happens.”

What happened was the Cavs shook up their front office, with Gilbert moving onto his third general manager in less than nine years of owning the team. It was suggested that Grant’s maneuvers, which were part of a once-Gilbert-endorsed rebuilding project, were a reason that James’ chances of returning to Cleveland had been diminished.

In reality, it is the opposite.


WhiteIt was hard for me to believe Daryl Morey when he ranked White as one of the worst first-round picks of all time. Sure, it turned out about as badly as it could have for Houston, and sure, they knew about White’s condition and drafted him anyway, but the way I look at it, it’s no different from drafting a Greg Oden or Len Bias. It’s not like they completely missed and took someone who did play and was terrible. The NBA might not have many JaMarcus Russells, but there are a few Hasheem Thabeets.

Jonathan Santiago of Cowbell Kingdom:

For the new Kings’ front office, they are looking at their signing of White like many things in their tenure thus far – as a process. Right now, their primary focus is on assessing White’s NBA potential and upside. Any baggage he may bring from his struggles with mental health are secondary at this point.

“We’re not making too much out of it,” Kings General Manager Pete D’Alessandro said to Cowbell Kingdom recently of the decision to pluck White out of basketball purgatory. “This is a 10-day basketball contract for a guy that wants a chance and we want to give him that chance.”

The Kings’ actions so far have been a reflection of their words. No special arrangements have been made between the Kings, Bighorns and White’s camp on how to handle his anxiety issues. The Bighorns’ staff has been instructed to treat White just like any other player and White has fully cooperated.

“We did some research about him,” Bighorns coach Joel Abelson told CK on this week’s Cowbell Kingdom Podcast. “Ty Ellis, on my staff, knows (Iowa State head coach) Fred Hoiberg really well and he coached (White) in college and he said just treat him like a normal guy.

“It’s not fair to us and to our players to cater everything around anybody,” Abelson added. “Nobody’s bigger than our team. He’ll be treated like anybody else and I think he’ll flourish and he’ll do very well.”


This is an excellent thing for the player, since it almost always leads to being picked up for the rest of the season, almost always with playoff teams, which almost always means playoff money.

First, the Heat re-signed DeAndre Liggins.





Dan Malone is in his fourth year as a journalism student at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and spent last summer as a features intern at the Cape Cod Times. He blogs, edits and learns things on the fly for Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on Twitter.

SH Blog: The tale of Antetokounmpo, Noah wants Melo to join Bulls

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Milwaukee BucksGiannis Antetokounmpo has truly come a long way to be where he is right now: a wide-eyed, just-turned 19-year-old kid who is learning the ropes of being an NBA player in his first season.

He came from a poor background – so poor that he actually shared a pair of sneakers with his brother whenever he had to play basketball. He is a fun character and has shown flashes of brilliance so far, so when you read about the road taken to be the person he is today, it makes him that much more likable. Amos Barshad of Grantland has a very, very detailed story on how he picked up on the game of basketball and what made him nearly give it up:

It starts in the early 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Greece was transformed by a wave of immigrants — including Giannis’s parents, who left their native Nigeria and had four sons in their adopted country. Velliniatis had played pro ball in Germany before he began pinging around Europe as a “have clipboard, will travel” type of coach. He saw Greece’s changing demographics as a way to help others (and perhaps boost his own career). He began scouring Athens’s new immigrant communities, seeking transformative basketball talent. And for a decade, he failed.“My personal life was going to nothing, my basketball career was not successful, and I said to myself, ‘I will not have big goals in life anymore,’” he tells me over the phone from Greece. He hadn’t played in the NBA; he hadn’t become a big-time coach. Then, a week after he had decided to give up: “I see Giannis.”It wasn’t one of his regular scouting trips; he was just walking through the neighborhood of Sepolia to visit a friend. This is not happening to me! This is not possible!, he said he thought when he spotted the 13-year-old Giannis. “You are chasing for 10 years immigrant kids to play basketball for a mediocre level, and suddenly you have in front of you Julius Erving! Magic Johnson! Michael Jordan!” Never mind that Giannis wasn’t actually playing basketball when Velliniatis first saw him. He was just running around with his brothers. But Velliniatis knew.

“It was mostly like a blackmail,” Velliniatis says, explaining how he convinced Giannis to hoop. “I told him, if I find work for your parents” — their work papers had long expired — “will you play basketball for me?” Then he took Giannis and his brothers to Filathlitikos, a smaller club where he hoped they would get more personal attention. He talked the club into providing a 500-euro monthly stipend — without Giannis ever touching a ball.

For the first few years, it was tenuous. “Many times the kid stopped,” Velliniatis says. “He was going and working, selling little things in marketplaces. I had to go back to the family and drag Giannis back to basketball.” The family had no money; at times, Giannis could go two or three days without eating. The fear of hunger was always a concern, Velliniatis says. “You could see it in the hardness of the kid.” Meanwhile, as Antetokounmpo recalls, “I get taller and taller and taller.”

It’s a long article (fine Grantland articles usually are), but it’s an intriguing story worth reading.


JoakimNoahSH1Can you imagine Carmelo Anthony playing alongside the kind of gritty defense the Chicago Bulls have? Joakim Noah can, and according to Chris Broussard of ESPN, the two All Stars had a meaningful conversation about teaming up next season in Chicago during All-Star weekend last month:

All-Star Convo btwn @carmeloanthony & @JoakimNoah began as discussion on what it’s like to play for Tom Thibodeau. With rumors about Bulls going 4 Melo as well as Thibs coaching NYK, Melo wanted to know about Thibs. From there, convo turned to Noah telling Melo he should join Bulls if he wants to win ring & secure winning legacy. Melo responded to Noah that he admires how hard Bulls play & how hungry they are. Also told him his son’s favorite player is D-Rose. I’m told D-Rose would love for Melo to join Bulls as well. If Bulls ask Rose to help recruit, he will. Sources add tho that it’ll be hard for Melo to turn down the $ and leave NYK.

Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Anthony, Taj Gibson and Noah. That sounds scary for the rest of the league and ideal for Anthony if all he wants to do is win. The upcoming summer should be a very intriguing one.


Paul George is widely recognized as a great two-way player around the league, but sometimes, even the simplest move can throw off a great defender. Case in point:


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UPDATE – Buyout Bonanzas: Granger, Butler, Fredette Could Help Playoff Teams; Udrih claimed by Grizz

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danny grangerDoes anyone want Danny Granger?

How about Jimmer Fredette?

Perhaps Caron Butler?

And how about this: Someone — the Memphis Grizzlies — wanted Beno Udrih so badly they claimed him off waivers.

This is the last week for contenders to shore up their playoff  rosters with NBA players for a run they hope will last into June. It is becoming known as February Free Agency.

The official NBA rule is that teams have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, March 1 to waive a player so he can be used on a postseason roster this season. So over the next few days, there will be a barrage of rumors, buyouts and transactions and we will keep you abreast of all the latest information here at SheridanHoops.

The Los Angeles Clippers already made a big splash this week by signing Glen “Big Baby” Davis, who had the final two years of his contract bought out by Orlando.

It’s a good fit. The Clippers desperately needed a backup big who warrants defensive attention, and Davis helped current Clippers coach Doc Rivers win one championship and almost a second in Boston.

But the big name that will be on the free agent market over the next few days is Granger.

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