Best of 2012: looks back at the year in Basketball

{eot} Staff
12/24/2012 10:12:58 AM
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As 2012 winds to a close, looks back at the stories that made the year memorable.'s writing staff reflects on the best basketball moments from the past 12 months including Steve Nash's change of address, Linsanity, David Stern's final year on the job and more.

Mitch Ward on Nash-ional Pride

Remember when the Raptors tried to land Steve Nash this summer?

Just the thought of Canada's best basketball player coming home to lead Canada's only NBA team had the media and fans around the country buzzing.

There Nash was, all set to join the Raptors and take basketball to another level in this country. Then the evil LA Lakers came along and stole him from right under our noses.

In truth, the Raptors may never have been that close to landing Nash. But they certainly took their best shot.

They offered the most money – a reported three-year deal worth $36 million. They handcuffed their presumed biggest competitors in the New York Knicks by signing Landry Fields to a big offer sheet. They played the National pride card.

Heck, they even got Wayne Gretzky to join in their pitch.

In the end, it was all for naught. Staying close to his kids and the desire to win a title trumped money and country for Nash as he opted to join Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.

The Lakers got one of the best point guards in NBA history. The Raptors got an overpaid Landry Fields and dreams of what might have been.

Shane McNeil on Linsanity

While no one will miss the barrage of puns it inspired, the all-to-brief life and death of "Linsanity" was the sort of sports fad that comes around every now and then that transcends.

Yes, the Harvard angle got overplayed and, yes, the sleeping on his cousin's couch angle was over-reported, but it's hard to argue with what Jeremy Lin did to the Knicks and the city of New York when a rash of injuries thrust him into the role of starting point guard.

Then Lin took off: A double-double against Washington, outscoring Kobe against the Lakers, a buzzer-beater in Toronto and even fighting past the defending champs from Dallas in front of a wild crowd at Madison Square Garden.

For a month, Lin was everywhere from the cover of Sports Illustrated to the NBA All-Star weekend and even getting props from Barack Obama.

Then Carmelo Anthony returned. And Mike D'Antoni resigned. And Lin had surgery. And the Knicks let him walk to the Houston Rockets. And it was all over.

But for one month, Linsanity reigned supreme.

Ward on the Grounding of Derrick Rose

It was one of the lasting images from the 2012 NBA playoffs: Derrick Rose, the 2010-11 NBA Most Valuable Player, writhing in pain on the ground and clutching at his left knee.

The Chicago Bulls finished the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season with a 50-16 record and earned the top seed in the East despite an injury-plagued season for Rose who missed 27 games.

And with the 2010-11 NBA MVP back at full strength for the playoffs, the Bulls had title aspirations. They were brimming with confidence heading into their first round series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

But with the Bulls leading the 76ers 99-87 with less than two minutes to play in Game 1, things went wrong.

Rose brought the ball over half, used a high-screen and crossed over to his left. He then darted into the paint, made a quick hop to his right and exploded up from the jump stop as he has done a million times in his career.

Only he didn't explode up. And just like that, the Eastern Conference Playoffs changed.

The moment Rose jumped, you knew something was wrong. He only got a fraction of the lift he normally would, dished the ball off and sank to the floor in clear agony.

Doctors would later confirm the Bulls worst fears: a torn ACL.

Chicago never won again as Philadelphia took four straight games and swept them out of the playoffs. The Miami Heat's seemingly biggest obstacle to the Eastern crown was gone.

Pat Lovgren on David Stern's Exit Strategy

As he had done throughout his nearly 30-year reign as NBA commissioner, David Stern left no doubt as to who was at the top of the NBA pyramid in 2012.

Barely a month after announcing he would step down in February of 2014 from the position he held for nearly three decades, Stern shocked the basketball world by fining the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 for what he called "a disservice to the league the fans."

Stemming from an incident in which Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich sat out four starters including Tim Duncan and Tony Parker for a nationally-televised game against the Miami Heat.

The fine was roundly criticized, especially after a team of San Antonio bench players nearly defeated the defending champs, but as was his history, Stern stood by his decision and apologized to no one.

His retirement announcement gave those around the league a chance to look back at his career and the consensus was that despite ruling with an iron fist and making few friends along the way, he will still be remembered for his many accomplishments and the unprecedented growth that coincided with his leadership.

While some will say Stern was simply fortunate to have assumed his role at the same time basketball legends like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were set to transform the league, ultimately he was still responsible with promoting his star players and implementing rules that made their talents shine through.

Selling his stars grew the game both internationally and at home and led to huge television contracts and an increase in player salaries from $250,000 a year in 1984 to more than $5 million.

His ability to implement caps on team spending without having significant work stoppages, while still maintaining solid relationships with both owners and players is all the more impressive when contrasted with the strategy employed by his former employee, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Ward on the Break-up of Boston's Big Three

There's an old song that goes: "You say it best when you say nothing at all."

Kevin Garnett must know that song with the way he completely ignored his former Boston running mate Ray Allen during the first meeting between the Celtics and Heat this season. Allen walked over to say hey and patted him on the shoulder; Garnett stared forward in stony silence.

For five seasons, Allen and Garnett along with Paul Pierce formed the Celtics core known as 'The Big Three'. The group was assembled in 2007 to bring the NBA title back to Boston and they delivered immediately.

The trio beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals to give Boston its first championship since the days of Larry Bird.

It was the group's only title though as they could never quite duplicate the success of that first year, although they did make it back to the Finals in 2010.

Last season, the Celtics' Big Three were written off as too old. They put together one more magical run though, reaching the Eastern Conference Finals and pushing Miami to the brink of elimination.

But all good things come to an end. The Celtics lost Games 6 and 7. Allen became a free agent and chose Miami over Boston. The Big Three era was over in Boston.

With his eyes locked forward and without saying a word, Garnett made clear exactly what he thought of Allen's decision.

Year in Review - NBA (Photo: The Canadian Press, Getty Images)


(Photo: The Canadian Press, Getty Images)
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