NBA in 2012: It was quite a Lin-sane year

December 25, 2012, 2:10 PM

Just days before 2012 was born, the NBA kicked off their schedule (late) with a flurry of captivating matches on Christmas Day. Six months later, the season ended with a trio of Heat stars finally getting rewarded for their decision to join forces.

From a lockout-shortened season to Linsanity to the Dwightmare, the National Basketball Association gave us a variety of ups and downs.

LeBron James not only collected his first ring but also collected an Olympic gold medal as well as a whole lifetime’s worth of MVP trophies.

As has been the case over the past several offseasons a new team of superstars joined forces making the Los Angeles Lakers appear to be instant challengers for the title but they started the 2012-13 season slow and one Mike (Brown) begat another Mike (D’Antoni) to man the bench for the Purple & Gold.

D’Antoni himself was run out of New York in the spring after a run-in with Knicks star Carmelo Anthony.

He wasn’t the only coach to have it out with a star player as Stan Van Gundy was sacked in a last-ditch effort to appease Dwight Howard after the pair had a much-publicized spat in the papers.

While newfound star Jeremy Lin rocketed off Broadway this summer for Houston, the Big Apple got a little more crowded as the Nets made their move to Brooklyn.

North of the border, the Toronto Raptors continued to deliver a steady dose of disappointment after creating an off-season wave of optimism with the arrival of Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry.

The year is coming to a close but it produced enough gold-medal memories to last a lifetime, at least for the US basketball team which topped the podium at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Here’s a rundown of some of the top NBA stories in 2012.

NEWSMAKER OF THE YEAR: JEREMY LIN

When the Houston Rockets placed Jeremy Lin on waivers as the 2011-12 season began, he was plucked off the scrap heap by the New York Knicks and even Hollywood screenwriters couldn’t write a script this good.

The Knicks got off to a horrendous 8-15 start, so with few other options coach Mike D’Antoni decided to give his fourth-string point guard a shot.

On Feb. 3rd, Lin — who was sleeping on teammate Landry Fields’ couch at the time — finally got his chance to shine.

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He would come off the bench against the New Jersey Nets to help lead the Knicks to victory. His point total (25) was almost half of his minutes played total (55) over the first 23 games of the season.

A day later, Lin started and scored 28 points, catapulting the Knicks over the Utah Jazz and the Lin-sanity legend began to grow.

He would help the Knicks to a seven-game winning streak which reached a pinnacle when he hit a buzzer-beating winner in Toronto in front of a road crowd that didn’t know whether to cheer or boo.

Lin’s story resonated for two main reasons.

His was the story of an underdog who succeeded against all odds as Lin seemed to handle his new-found fame with a humble nature which appealed to fans from all corners of the globe.

In the off-season, the Knicks surprisingly allowed Lin to walk when his former club, the Rockets, signed him to an offer sheet.

He gained a measure of revenge when he returned to Madison Square Garden and helped the Rockets upset the Knicks by a score of 109-96. He would score 22 points while recording eight assists.

Honourable mention: Steve Nash

He became general manager of Team Canada and spurned the Raptors to join the Lakers. An exciting summer for Kid Canada.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: LEBRON JAMES

When LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, many questioned the Decision.

After angering the basketball world outside of Miami, James was tormented for a season on the road but in 2012 he persevered and the boos fell by the wayside.

In February at the All-Star game he scored 36 points while tying a record for three-pointers made (six), en route to claiming the MVP Award.

That was just the beginning for King James.

He would help lead the Heat to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference behind the surprising Chicago Bulls posting averages of 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game. James would collect his third career regular-season MVP Award.

While he had another impressive regular campaign, in the postseason James would step his play up a notch.

With the Heat’s other big stars bothered by injuries, James became a one-man wrecking ball helping the Heat collect the NBA Championship as he grabbed his first ring and yet another MVP award — this time it was the NBA Finals.

In the summer, James teamed up with a host of American stars to help the U.S. claim the gold medal in London at the 2012 Olympic Games.

James became only the second man to collect a gold medal, the three MVP awards and an NBA title all in a single season after Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan.

Honourable mention: Kevin Durant

Another solid year for Durant but he is stuck behind James — for now.

VILLAIN OF THE YEAR: DWIGHT HOWARD

Over the past several seasons, a number of high-profile NBA stars have left smaller markets for bigger cities but none have handled the transition as poorly as Dwight Howard.

Perhaps, the Orlando Magic should have made a move when he first indicated that he wanted a change of scenery but they were left paralyzed as he continued sending mixed signals, occasionally indicating that he wanted out while also stating that he was happy in Florida.

At the trade deadline, it appeared as though Howard was going to get his wish before he suddenly decided to sign on for one more season.

Things went from bad to worse when his coach, Stan Van Gundy, told reporters that his star centre tried to get him fired. It quickly turned into a high-schoolish, he-said, he-said war of words between coach and player.

Howard was shut down before the playoffs with back issues and by season’s end, he was once again pleading to leave Orlando.
He got his wish when he was dealt to L.A. over the summer but he has not signed an extension, leading some to predict that we are in for yet another Dwightmare this season.

Honourable mention: Carmelo Anthony

The Knicks star ran Mike D’Antoni and Jeremy Lin out of New York but seems to have redeemed himself after helping US to gold in London and a strong start to the 2012-13 season.

THE WHAT IF OF THE YEAR: STERN VS. SPURS

On Nov. 30, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich decided to send home Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green in the midst of a stretch which saw them play five games in seven nights.

Popovich wanted to rest his core players ahead of a showdown with his Western Conference rivals in Memphis.

It was discovered the players would not be available just before the game, setting off a Twitter firestorm.

Before the game even began, NBA commissioner David Stern issued an apology and announced that the Spurs would be sanctioned.

The depleted Spurs roster actually hung tough with the defending champs before falling 110-105 which led to one of the great what ifs: If the Spurs won, would Stern have been able to punish the franchise?

Honourable mention: While we will also never know the answer to this question, how good would the Oklahoma City Thunder have been if they hadn’t traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets?

DUNK OF THE YEAR: BLAKE GRIFFIN

On Jan. 31, Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin dunked over Oklahoma City Thunder centre Kendrick Perkins with such force that it caused many of his peers to stand up and take notice.

Honourable mention: JaVale McGee posterizes Jose Calderon.

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