Ten things that made 2010 an NBA year to remember

 

 

No. 10 -- Same old story in Portland

The Blazers are, again, ripped apart by injuries, with Greg Oden lost for the bulk of two more seasons after
fracturing his kneecap in December of '09, missing the rest of that season, then
missing all of the '10-'11 season after having to undergo microfracture surgery
in early December.
The team's other franchise player, guard Brandon Roy, undergoes arthroscopic surgery just before the start of the playoffs, makes a
miraculous recovery and plays toward the end of the first-round series with
Phoenix, but cannot get through the first month of the following season because
of debilitating pain in both knees. Roy revelas he no longer has cartilage in
either knee. Center Joel Przybilla blows out his knee two weeks after Oden
fractures his kneecap, then suffers a setback by slipping in his shower. All the
lost man-games leave general manager Kevin Pritchard vulnerable to internal
criticism of his decision-making -- i.e., he doesn't kowtow enough to owner Paul
Allen's Seattle-based braintrust -- and Allen winds up firing Pritchard on Draft
night.


No. 9 -- The Apple, relevant again

The Knicks' free agent acquisitions of Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton give New York City's
franchise a desperately-needed shot in the arm after striking out on
LeBron.
The sale of the Nets -- NYC's future team -- to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov ensures the Nets, after two seasons in Prudential Arena in
Newark (a significant upgrade on the late, unlamented Izod Center), will move
into Brooklyn in 2013 with significant buzz. Of course, having Carmelo would
help, too.


No. 8 -- Durantula comes of age
OKC's Kevin Durant increases the pain in Portland by becoming a full-fledged superstar in his third
NBA season. He becomes the youngest player in history to lead the league in
scoring (30.1), is named first-team All-NBA and finishes second to LeBron James
in MVP voting.

He then endears himself to just about every writer covering the L by announcing, quietly, on his Twitter account that he's
re-upping with the Thunder with a long-term extension, then caps his Magnificent
Summer by leading the United States team to an unexpectedly easy victory in the
World Championships in Turkey, including a dismantling of the host Turks in the
gold medal game.


No. 7 -- Making the Point
A half-dozen elite young point guards -- Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Chris
Paul, Brandon Jennings and Rajon Rondo -- take point guard play to a higher
level, with guards like Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans and Darren Collison waiting
in the wings. Meanwhile, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Andre Miller, Jameer Nelson,
Jason Kidd and Devin Harris said, 'What are we, chopped liver?,' making the
position a must-have for any team hoping to compete in the next decade. Which is
one reason that Washington took John Wall first overall in last June's
Draft.


No. 6 -- Suspended animation

The Commish suspends Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas for the final 50 games of the 2009-10 season after
Arenas reaches a plea bargain with Washington, D.C. authorities. Arenas pleads
guilty to one felony count of carrying a pistol without a license, stemming from
the December, 2009 incident in which Arenas brought four unloaded guns into the
team's practice facility at Verizon Center in D.C. The suspension sets in motion
the dismantling of the Wizards; Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn
Stevenson are traded to Dallas in a deal that brings Josh Howard to Washington,
and Antawn Jamison is sent to Cleveland for Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who is waived by
Washington and re-signs with the Cavs a month later.


No. 5 -- Orlando blows it up
The Magic reach the Eastern Conference finals, but get stomped by the resurgent Celtics. Orlando keeps most of its core group together through the
summer, except for Matt Barnes, who signs with the Lakers. The Magic start this
season 16-5, and on the outside, everything looks fine. But team president Otis
Smith knows something is way wrong, and with two huge, simultaneous deals, he
dramatically remakes his team. He sends Rashard Lewis to Washington for Arenas
and trades Vince Carter, Mickeal Pietrus and Marcin Gortat to Phoenix for Hedo
Turkoglu, Earl Clark and Jason Richardson. How this year's team fares in the
playoffs will go a long way toward determining if Dwight Howard stays in town
after the 2012 season.


No. 4 -- 'Melo-drama in the Mile High
Carmelo Anthony's army of leakers and whisperers put out the word that the Nuggets' franchise player and three-time All Star wants out of Denver,
looking for a combo of superstars like Miami put together to play alongside for
the next few years. Of course, when asked, 'Melo says he's just playing and
isn't thinking about the future, which is absurd on its face, as he's left a $65
million extension on the table for months (and just, again, told the Nuggets
last week that he had no intention of re-signing in Denver, according to a
source.)


No. 3 -- A Finals to Remember

The proud Celtics recover from a mediocre regular season, knock out James and the Cavaliers in a
second-round upset, then dominate Howard and the Magic in the Eastern Conference
finals.
The defending champion Lakers withstand a first-round challenge from Oklahoma City, then cruise past Utah and Phoenix to reach The Finals. The
resulting Finals is one of the best in history, a seven-game epic that produces
the highest-rated championship series in 14 years. Boston takes a 3-2 series
lead behind the uplifting play of Glen (Shrek) Davis and Nate (Donkey) Robinson
in Game 4, but loses starting center Kendrick Perkins early in Game 6 in L.A.
The Lakers proceed to bludgeon the Cs on the glass in the final two games, but
the biggest shock of all comes in Game 7. With four likely Hall of Famers on the
court -- Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce (with a possible
fifth in Ray Allen) -- the best player on the floor in the decisive game is
Ronald William Artest, Jr., of Queensbridge, N.Y., who goes for 20 points, 5
rebounds and 5 steals.

No. 2 -- Labor pains
Looming like the Sword of Damocles over the league's renewal in interest among fans last season was the
prospect of a protracted lockout in 2011. Owners have asked for $800 million in
givebacks from player salaries. Players have countered with willingness to give
some on their guaranteed piece of the pie, but aren't going to talk about
anything close to $800 million. Hard-line owners want to take the players' cut
below 50 percent (it's currently 57 percent). Of course a lot of this is
posturing and PR, but it's hard
to find anyone who believes there won't be a work stoppage next season. Will it
be 10 games? Twenty? Forty? Will anyone stand up and say, 'Let's not blow up all
the progress we've made since the last lockout, which nearlydestroyed the
league'? This one mightdestroy it.

No. 1 -- The Decision

We have talked and written ad nauseum about the reasoning, and whether it was the right
thing to do. But no one can argue that on July 8, at 9 p.m., anybody who had the
slightest interest in pro basketball -- and thousands more who didn't -- tuned
into the Four-Letter Network to see what LeBron had to say. In a sport where
owners almost always have the final say in who goes where, here was a player who
had all of the juice, who made everyone wait on his every word. LeBron James
does not mind being LeBron James, not in the least. And there he was, making
everyone take notice.

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