Expertís Corner: Season Review

Where did the last eight months ago? As Chris Bosh heaved up the ball from way beyond the three point line in the final seconds of Game 7 of the NBA Finals, we officially closed the chapter of all the basketball action of the 67th NBA season. And suddenly, it was all over. But jam-packed in a season of highs and lows was everything from memorable individual performances, internet-crashing dunks, heart-stopping buzzer-beaters, and historical winning streaks. For the final edition of Expertís Corner for this season,ís Akshay Manwani and Karan Madhok look back at their five biggest storylines of the year.

Karan Madhok
Writer, NBA India

1. The epic union of the Lakers and their epic implosion: When the Lakers introduced Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard as their starting lineup, the NBA world held its collective breath in anticipation for the dominance that many expected to follow. Instead, the team imploded in dramatic fashion. There were coaches changes, injuries, trouble between the players, and more injuries, and the team that was supposed to be on top of the best limped into 7th place in the Conference and were swept by the Spurs in the First Round. A silver lining was the continued great play of Kobe Bryant; unfortunately, an end-of-season injury darkened that silver lining, too.

2. The Gay Athlete: Leave it to the NBA to be ahead of the curve once again. With one simple statement on the Sports Illustrated cover, Wizards free-agent Center Jason Collins officially became the first openly-gay active athlete in American sports. Collinsí pronouncement was historic in itself; but the ensuing support and encouragement from the NBA community made the story even more newsworthy.

3. The meteoric rise of Paul George: Indianaís George knew that he would have to change his role from just a defensive specialist and carry the Pacersí offense once Danny Granger was injured. But few couldíve expected that not only would he be up to the task, but he would bloom into one of the leagueís most exciting young talents. George made the All Star game for the first time in his career and helped carry the balanced Pacers deep into the playoffs with several memorable performances on both ends of the floor. James Harden of the Rockets and Stephen Curry of the Warriors also enjoyed similar breakout performances this season.

4. Game 6 (And the rest of the Finals, too): For many of us (including me), Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals will go down as one of the greatest NBA games of our lifetime. There was everything: a title on the line, a veteran legend with a 25 point first half, an MVP with a 19-point first quarter, key turnovers, key rebounds, missed free-throws, circus shots, the biggest shot of Ray Allenís career, and overtime. Game 6 highlighted one of the most closely-contested Finals in recent times, a back and forth battle between two fantastic teams who showcased the beautiful game of basketball at its highest level.

5. South Beach Kings: They revolutionized small ball, produced a stunningly efficient offense, featured an MVP, and won a mindboggling 27 games in a row. And all that was before their difficult run to a second consecutive championship. The road to the result was different from last year, but at the end of the season, the result was still the same. Miami were the NBA Champions, and LeBron James stood alone at the top with the Championship, MVP, and Finals MVP trophy.
Akshay Manwani
Writer, NBA India

1. The emotional rollercoaster that were the LA Lakers: They fired a coach (Mike Brown) just five games into the season, went 20-26 until the end of January before rebounding with a 25-11 run that eventually saw them land the seventh spot in the Western Conference. But this was not how a team that included Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Steven Nash, with coach Mike DíAntoni were supposed to play. This was a team built to challenge the Miami Heatís primacy. Instead, they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in four straight. Yes, the Lakers were hampered by their injuries, but they were newsmakers this season, largely, for reasons other than playing quality basketball.

2.The Heatís 27-game win streak: Miami fans were disappointed when the Heatís juggernaut that lasted between February 3 to March 25 was broken by the Chicago Bulls on March 27. But seriously, even though the Heat fell short of the Lakersí 33-game mark from 1971-72, is there much chance of anyone bettering their 27-game record anytime soon? Naah! This was special and we will remember 2012-13 for it.

3. The one who didnít play and the tenacity of the Bulls: Derrick Rose kept his Chicago Bullsí teammates, fans and the rest of the league on tenterhooks with his torn ACL rehab. As November turned to December to January and so on, the speculation surrounding Roseís return only increased. Rose himself added to the drama by saying he would only return when he felt a Ď110 percentí. Meanwhile, the Bulls, led by the dogged Tom Thibodeau, played their hearts out, despite suffering injuries to several players right until their five-game elimination at the hands of the Miami Heat. Rose never came, but the Bulls Ė Nate Robinson, Joakim Noah and the young Jimmy Butler in particular - performed admirably.

4. Injuries, they just kept on coming: Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, Danny Granger Ė at another time, these names would have probably headlined All-Star weekend. But heading into the 2013 postseason, all of them were confined to the sidelines with injuries, taking some of the sheen off from the playoffs. Others, like Andrew Bynum and the aforementioned Rose, either of who didnít play a nanosecond in the entire season, contributed to the disappointment of the league missing several stars right through the season.

5. The 2013 NBA Finals: To paraphrase a dialogue from one of Indian cinemaís greatest films, Sholay, the 2013 NBA Finals had, ďdrama, tragedy and emotion.Ē There were unbelievable individual performances, a 17-minute stretch in Game 6 that involved several zany plays before LeBron James brought the curtains down with a spectacular individual show in Game 7. The Miami Heat walked away as worthy champions, with James reveling in successive MVP awards (regular season and Finals), but the San Antonio Spurs played no less than champions themselves.