Biggest Stories of the 2011-2012 NBA Season
The 2011-2012 lockout shortened NBA regular season came to a close on Thursday night and the condensed scheduled has left many people suggesting that just maybe the league should make this a repeat affair. Not the lockout part, but rather the Christmas day start and the rapid-fire succession of games. This was after all a season to be remembered.
Since the day the 2011-2012 NBA season should have started, big stories have been the norm and we have had so many of them, it can be hard to decided which were the biggest.
NBA Lockout Ends
The biggest story of the season should be that we had a season at all. Negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement only really got going after several false starts, unnecessary posturing, the questionable dissolution of the players’ union, and the cancellation of training camps, preseason games, and the first two months of the regular season. 148 days later, the players’ lawyers and the owners’ negotiating team reached a mutually beneficial tentative agreement.
With the cancellation of the entire season at risk, the players caved to the owners’ demands on the money issues and the owners conceded to the players’ wishes for exceptions to the salary cap to maintain player mobility. The two sides ended up agreeing to a deal that seemed like the obvious solution from the beginning. The lockout ended and NBA fans were the winners.
Clippers Get Chris Paul and More
In one swift move the woeful Los Angeles Clippers were not only vaulted to respectability, they dashed the hopes of the Lakers establishing their own next dynasty before the current one was even past its expiry date. Only days before, the league-owned Hornets had rejected the seemingly done deal to send All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the Lakers and the Clippers swooped in with a collection of young talent and the Timberwolves’ unprotected first round draft pick to claim Paul as their own. Nothing could have been sweeter for Clippers fans, or more gut wrenching to Lakers Nation.
The Clippers built on a bold amnesty claim of Chauncey Billups from New York and followed things up with the addition of veteran free agent small forward Caron Butler. The usually tight-fisted Clippers even stepped up to retain the services of DeAndre Jordan after the Golden State Warriors had signed him to a $43 million offer sheet.
Dwight Howard Does a Melo 2.0-plus
Everyone knew that the Orlando Magic had a situation in need of a solution when All-Star center Dwight Howard started the season with a player option for next year and no interest in signing an extension. It wasn’t long before the constant questioning from the media brought the hornet’s nest of problems to the surface. Howard wanted out and gave the Magic a list of teams he was willing to be traded to and sign an extension with and things only got worse from there.
Reasonably solid trade rumors became the norm and a distracted Magic team was an inconsistent performer to say the least. Then the rumors of Howard wanting head coach Stan Van Gundy replaced surfaced and team headed towards the trade deadline with no apparent option but to move their star player for whatever they could get.
Except for the media reporting on events, no one was enjoying this scenario any more.
Under the gun, the Magic threatened to trade Howard to a team not of his choice and Howard buckled under the pressure and agreed to take up his player option for next season. While the situation appeared to be temporarily resolved, things could and did get worse. Coach Van Gundy confirmed to the media that Howard had requested his termination and Howard’s own play on the court was called into question. It was resolved only after Howard opted for season ending back surgery with his team’s blessing.
Unlike Carmelo Anthony’s story which ended with a trade to the Knicks, Howard`s saga continues into the off season and possibly beyond.
Jeremy Lin Saves the Knicks
Not to overlook the turnaround in New York that has occurred since Mike Woodson took over as head coach, but the current heroics probably wouldn’t have mattered if a desperate Mike D’Antoni had not turned to a young unproven point guard after an abysmal 8-15 start to the season.
D’Antoni brought the barely utilized Jeremy Lin off the bench for 35 minutes against the Nets and he dropped 25 points and seven assists to start the turnaround of the Knicks season. That game bumped Lin into the starting lineup and he led the Knicks to seven wins in a row averaging better than 24 points and nine assists.
For the month of February, it could be argued that there was no bigger story in sport than the unexpected success of the American born guard of Chinese descent. As a testament to Lin’s impact, his jersey is the most popular in the NBA this season.
Lin signed a minimum salary deal for one season with the Knicks and his story will continue in July when he can test the restricted free agent market.
Battle of the Rookie Point Guards
Rookie of the year honors quickly became a two-way battle between the Cavaliers 2011 number one draft pick Kyrie Irving and the Timberwolves 2009 selection Ricky Rubio.
Where Irving was better than advertised and lead his in team in scoring with 18.5 points per game, Rubio became the engine that turned the Timberwolves from a bad joke into a playoff contender. Both players established themselves as future stars in the NBA.
Many prognosticators have already handed the rookie of the year honors to Irving because of his immediate offensive impact and obvious leadership potential, some tipping the balance towards Irving because he started all 51 games that he played and Rubio’s season was cut short by injury. However, Irving only played 10 more games than Rubio and the Timberwolves were 18-13 with Rubio as a starter.
Perhaps the best argument for keeping Rubio in consideration was his team’s 5-20 performance after he was injured. The Timberwolves didn’t just fall out of the playoff picture, they reverted all the way back to last year’s anemic performance level.
Both players deserve consideration for rookie of the year and this battle should not have been called over as early as it was.
More Big Stories
This was a fantastic season for big story lines.
Portlands’ Brandon Roy retired and Greg Oden had knee surgery again.
New York acquired Tyson Chandler, amnestied Chauncey Billups and eventually parted company with head coach Mike D’Antoni.
Deron Williams started the season in the same situation as Howard, but he deflected questions with ‘it’s a secret plan’ and quietly heads towards free agency without making any commitments, a story in the making?
The possible relocation of the Kings from Sacramento or the possibility of a new arena in Sacramento is an on-going story.
The Golden State Warriors finally traded Monta Ellis and acquired the injured Andrew Bogut in return.
The aging San Antonio Spurs are the best in the West again and the Boston Celtics revived a flagging season to capture first in the Atlantic division.
The New Orleans Hornets were finally sold by the league and at a meager profit sort of.
The Indiana Pacers had a breakout season.
Is Meta World Peace getting suspended again really a big story? It was for about a week.
For a season that almost wasn’t, it was a season of non-stop action and intrigue and it’s far from over, many of the biggest stories are going to continue into the playoffs, the summer, and even into next season. The biggest and best of the 2011-2012 NBA season is still unfolding.
Did we miss a big story or skip over an important event, let us know in the comments below.