Expert’s Corner: The Best (and Worst) of 2012

The year 2012 comes to an end with the promise of another exciting calendar year of NBA action ahead of us. The year that passed gave us plenty to cherish, from sparkling individual performances to some memorable team achievements. There was drama as well, but ultimately it was the game of basketball that finished the eventual winner.

In our second edition of Expert’s Corner – NBA.com/India bloggers Karan Madhok and Akshay Manwani take a look back at some of the main takeaways from 2012.

LeBron’s year to remember
Akshay's Take Karan's Take
After all the criticism that came LeBron’s way when he decided to part ways with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2010 offseason and Miami’s unsuccessful (they reached the finals, though) title run in his first season there, 2012 has been a most fulfilling year for the NBA’s reigning MVP. LeBron, along with a certain Michael Jordan, is now one of only two players in NBA history to win regular season MVP, Finals MVP, an NBA Championship and an Olympic Gold Medal in the same year. Congratulations King James! The Chinese will remember 2012 as the Year of the Dragon, the Mayans called it the year that their calendar ended, and – according to TIME Magazine – the ‘Person of the Year’ was U.S. President Barack Obama. But in the basketball world, 2012 was the year of LeBron James. After falling short of the title despite strong individual performances in the past, LeBron finally had the perfect year. In 2012, he won his first NBA Championship, Finals MVP award and his third regular season MVP. He followed it in the summer with Olympic Gold Medal. He continued to play at a high level and will hope to make 2013 a repeat performance.


Linsanity! Past and Future
Akshay's Take Karan's Take
Would the Beatles be a phenomenon today? Can Elvis make the world swing to Jailhouse Rock today? Can Sean Connery play 007 again? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then perhaps Linsanity can repeat his run from last season with the New York Knicks. But, in reality, Jeremy Lin is a phenomenon that happened just once. Lin’s numbers are already down this season as he averages 11.9 PPG, 6.2 APG over 32.6 MPG as against 14.6 PPG and 6.2 APG in 26.9 MPG from the 2011-12 season. Lin is a decent point-guard, whose fan base in Taipei and China is getting him much adulation in the All-Star ballot. But to think that he will experience ‘Yesterday Once More’, is a bit much. Maybe no story in basketball history has been as astounding as the rise of Jeremy Lin. For three brief weeks in February, a little-known Asian-American point guard went from being the 12th man on the Knicks roster to making history. Lin shattered the record for most points scored by anyone in their first five NBA starts and was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Without their best players, Lin saved the Knicks with a six-game winning streak. In a matter of weeks, he moved up from crashing on a teammate’s couch to being on the covers of Sports Illustrated and TIME. His play has mellowed since, but his popularity guaranteed the former benchwarmer a lucrative contract and starting job for the Houston Rockets. He may never become a superstar force again, but the point guard has enough talent and popularity to remain significant in the league for years to come.


The Brooklyn Nets and all that it has meant
Akshay's Take Karan's Take
I’m happy for them bearing in mind the bigger picture. Mikhail Prokhorov wants to win and win fast, which is why the Nets went all out in the offseason to surround Deron Williams with some proven talent. But I’m not too sure if the firing of Avery Johnson is going to set things right at Brooklyn. Williams needs to shoulder more responsibility, both, in terms of his on and off court duties. And pining for Jerry Sloan in public, when the offense is not working, is not the best thing to do. Still, Brooklyn has a lot to look forward to. Goodbye New Jersey, Hello Brooklyn. The Nets played their last game in New Jersey in April after 35 years before moving to Brooklyn for the start of the new season. The move brought with it new jerseys, a new arena, new cheerleaders, a new mascot, and also new players like Joe Johnson, a new star for their backcourt. After a hot start, the Nets’ play has simmered down of late. They’ll be hoping to build some momentum in 2013.


The ‘Dwightmare’ Ends with Howard in LA
Akshay's Take Karan's Take
Has 'Dwightmare' really ended or is this just another pit stop in Dwight Howard’s relentless soap opera? Having bolted Orlando, after putting the Magic faithful through ‘n’ number of flip-flops, Howard came to LA with much promise. Instead, his numbers are down and he hasn’t looked like his normal self after offseason back surgery. What was supposed to be the most dominant team in the West, the Lakers now look like they are one move away from being broken up by management if things don’t fix themselves quickly. Meanwhile, the OKC Thunder continue their dominance in this conference, but James Harden’s exit, as I’ve said before, will only be felt in the playoffs. The biggest move of the offseason was the four team trade that sent – amongst others – Dwight Howard to Los Angeles, Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia, and Andre Iguodala to Denver. The Lakers’ gamble for the league’s best Center ended a long-drawn drama in Orlando concerning Howard’s future. Paired with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash, the Lakers threatened to become a powerhouse. But they’ve had an uneven start to the year and will look ahead to 2013 as the year to complete their recovery. Meanwhile, L.A.'s Western Conference rivals, the OKC Thunder, have made a big move of their own, surprisingly sending reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden to Houston in return for Kevin Martin. It seemed like a risky move at first, but OKC’s hot play this season has convinced doubters that they are still one of the top championship contenders.


Lockout over; back to regular scheduling. Is there a difference?
Akshay's Take Karan's Take
Of course. Yes. Most definitely. Certainly. 100 percent different. And I can’t be any more emphatic in answering that question. The 2011-12 66-game season took its toll on players, with almost every team reeling under the back-to-back-to-back schedule. Perhaps, some key injuries were caused by that schedule. This year, by contrast, allows more of a breather between games, with teams, like the Lakers, also having the opportunity to rebound after a bad start.


- Akshay Manwani
A year ago, the season didn't begin till Christmas day, with the teams and players still seperated from each other due to the lockout. But by December 25, 2012, almost two months of NBA basketball had already been played. With a return to regular scheduled programming, teams have more time between games to practice and study their opponents and the regular-length of the training camp and practice time have allowed better understanding between teams. The result will be that, as the season progresses, the longer period will eventually see the cream of the league rise to the top.


- Karan Madhok