Bernucca: You Can Have the NCAA Tournament

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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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StatBox Free Agency Breakdown: Winners & Losers July 11 Update

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Most of the star players in free agency are now off the board, but there are still plenty of impact players to discuss in this updated version of the Free Agency Breakdown with unique analytic angles. We here at Sheridan Hoops will break everything down for you into bite sized Winners & Losers style pieces.

HowardThe Houston Rockets, GM Daryl Morey and Dwight Howard were WINNERS after agreeing to a four-year deal worth $88 million to finally, mercifully, ending the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Morey set out a year ago to acquire two stars to legitimately compete in this SuperTeam Era that currently rules the NBA and got them in Howard and Harden.

Houston also signed Francisco Garcia to a team-friendly contract worth $1.3 million over two years. Garcia could probably replace Carlos Delfino in a spacer-type role for Houston after shooting 37.4 percent from three last season. Houston then picked up another spacer in Reggie Williams, who needs to greatly improve from his 30.6 shooting percentage from three last season with Charlotte.

Of course, the Howard deal makes the Los Angeles Lakers the big losers of the offseason for getting nothing out of Howard and looking ridiculous in doing so. They will now try to delude themselves into thinking players like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will come next offseason. Good. Freaking. Luck.

But if there is any consolation for Laker fans, I do like their signing of Chris Kaman a lot. Despite a sharp decrease in minutes with the Mavericks last season, from 29.2 to 20.7 per game, Kaman shot 50.7 percent from the field (his best percentage in a season in which he played over 40 games since the 2005-2006 season) and averaged 10.5 points with 5.6 rebounds. His Win Shares per 48 minutes was his best mark since the 2007-2008 campaign. Expect better production in LA with a slightly increased workload. And Jordan Farmar won’t be a bad player either for the veteran’s minimum.

Josh SmithDwight Howard’s good friend, Josh Smith, ended up with Detroit for four-years and $56 million and Al Jefferson cashed in for three years and $41 million with Charlotte. This brings us a really interesting philosophical question: Can these players be the highest paid, and best, players for playoff teams? The answer is likely no. But does that mean the teams shouldn’t try?

Despite a subpar year by his standards Smith is still a really good player, so the jury is still out on this signing for the Pistons. Smith will make a really good frontcourt with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, but do the Pistons have the backcourt to compete? Not right now, even with the Chauncey Billups signing (two years, $5 million).

LAC_Billups_ChaunceyBillups will add veteran leadership and a fan favorite to the Detroit roster, but he’s only played 42 total games over the last two seasons. But when he’s played he’s been good, shooting 36.7 percent from three last season with a Win Share/48 number that’s well above average. It’s just hard to envision Billups being healthy all season. Billups will join Will Bynum, who Detroit re-signed to an affordable two-year deal worth $5.75 million. Bynum shot a career best 46.9 percent from the field and averaged nearly 10 points per game for the Pistons in 2012-2013.

It’ll also be interesting to see how the team uses reigning Italian League MVP Gigi Datome, who inked a two-year deal worth $3.5 million. Our resident Euro expert A.J. Mitnick told me that he’ll need to adjust to the NBA game, but the potential is there for Datome to become a nice NBA player. I’ll take his word for it…

On the Charlotte side of things, there’s no doubt that Jefferson is a really, really good player. Anyone who shoots nearly 50 percent from the field and averages nearly 18 points and over nine boards per game is really good. His defense will certainly help an inept Bobcats team in that department, but his offensive rating of 109 last season leaves something to be desired.

Can Jefferson, Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo coexist in the frontcourt? Can Jefferson be the best player on a playoff team? Jefferson has made the playoffs just twice in his nine-season career, losing in the first round on both occasions. Golden State signed David Lee to an enormous contract, and Golden State ended up okay by hitting it big by drafting Stephen Curry, Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson. Charlotte will have to do that in order to not look foolish with this Jefferson signing, so, again, the jury is still out.

Fantasy Spin: LeBron Leads Huge Rally, Heat Make It 24 Straight

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For the entire first half, it looked like Miami really didn’t care about their win streak, as the wounded, underdog Cavaliers raced out to a 55-34 lead and LeBron James had just six points. They were down by as much as 27 in the third, when the King finally went to work, finishing with a triple-double (25 PTS, 12 REB, 10 AST, 3 STL, 2 BLK) and lifting his team to a 24th consecutive victory.

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Five Fast Facts From NBA Games 1.25.13

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Comebacks? Yeah, we’ve got comebacks this morning. If you turned off the telly too soon, you cheated yourself.

And if that is the case, we are glad you are here. We run this feature every morning, allowing you to catch up on what went down in the NBA last night without sacrificing too much of your time. And so to borrow a trick from Stat Mann, who regularly posts this feature, we’ll go all caps before we begin …

MAS TEQUILA!

SH Blog: More on Grizzlies-Cavs trade: NBA Taxonomics

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As the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers completed a deal Tuesday  that will send three players and a future first-round draft pick to Cleveland in exchange for forward/perennial D-Leaguer Jon Leuer, we must all become more aware of the bigger picture at stake.

The clock is expiring on the NBA’s practical, dollar-for-dollar luxury tax era.

The rules are changing, and these deals will become more of the norm than the exception.

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