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At the start of the season, the NBA put a new ball into play — literally. The traditional Spalding leather ball was replaced by a microfiber composite one in training camps that was supposed to have more consistency in the way it handles and bounces. But after numerous complaints from star players about how it was causing paper-cut like injuries to their hands, the NBA switched back to the original leather ball on Jan. 1, 2007.
That brief equipment change wasn’t the only new aspect to the NBA in 2006-07. The Hornets split their season between New Orleans and Oklahoma City as repairs were finalized on the New Orleans Arena, which was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. In December, former MVP and Sixers legend Allen Iverson was shipped to Denver in a trade for Andre Miller. Even the All-Star Game went through a change — of venue. For the first time in league history, the midseason showcase was held in a non-NBA city as Las Vegas’ Thomas & Mack Center hosted the game.
During the season, the defending-champion Heat struggled to a 44-38 record as Shaquille O’Neal was hampered by a knee injury. Toronto won its first Atlantic Division title while in the Central Division, Cleveland put serious heat on Detroit for the top spot. Out West, the Jazz returned to contending status while the Spurs and Suns remained solid.
Still reeling from the Mavs’ NBA Finals collapse the year before, Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas to the league’s best record (67-15) and won the MVP award. But more heartache was in store for Nowitzki and Co. once the playoffs began.
Despite barely making the playoffs, the Golden State Warriors shocked the basketball world by upsetting the No. 1-seeded Mavericks in six games. The Warriors would lose in five games in the semis to the upstart Jazz, who reached the West finals for the first time since 1998. Utah, however, was no match for the Spurs. San Antonio dispatched the Jazz in five games to clinch its fourth NBA Finals berth.
In the East playoffs, it was all about the Cleveland Cavaliers. Powered by LeBron James all-around exploits, the Cavs breezed into the East finals where they faced the rival Pistons. In Game 5 of that series, he added a chapter to his playoff lore with an amazing performance down the stretch. James’ career playoff-high 48 points — including his team’s final 25 and 29 of its last 30 — carried Cleveland to a double-OT win. The Cavs wrapped up the series in Cleveland in Game 6 to reach their first Finals.
Once in The Finals, though, LeBron and Co. were simply blown away by the Spurs. Though they kept Tim Duncan under his season scoring average, point guard Tony Parker savaged the Cavs all series long as the Spurs won in a sweep. Parker became the first European-born player to earn the Finals MVP as he averaged 24.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
Eastern Conference first round
Chicago defeated Miami (4-0)
Cleveland defeated Washington (4-0)
Detroit defeated Orlando (4-0)
New Jersey defeated Toronto (4-2)
Western Conference first round
Golden State defeated Dallas (4-2)
Phoenix defeated Los Angeles Lakers (4-1)
San Antonio defeated Denver (4-1)
Utah defeated Houston (4-3)
Eastern Conference semifinals
Cleveland defeated New Jersey (4-2)
Detroit defeated Chicago (4-2)
Western Conference semifinals
San Antonio defeated Phoenix (4-2)
Utah defeated Golden State (4-1)
Eastern Conference finals
Cleveland defeated Detroit (4-2)
Western Conference finals
San Antonio defeated Utah (4-1)
San Antonio defeated Cleveland (4-0)
Points — Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (31.6)
Assists — Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns (11.6)
Rebounds — Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves (12.8)
Steals — Baron Davis, Golden State Warriors (2.1)
Blocks — Marcus Camby, Denver Nuggets (3.3)
FG% — Mikki Moore, New Jersey Nets (60.9)
FT% — Kyle Korver, Philadelphia 76ers (91.4)
3PT% — Jason Kapono, Miami Heat (51.4)
Most Valuable Player: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
Rookie of the Year: Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers
Defensive Player of the Year — Marcus Camby, Denver Nuggets
Most Improved Player — Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors
Sixth Man of the Year — Leandro Barbosa, Phoenix Suns
Coach of the Year — Sam Mitchell, Toronto Raptors
All-Star Game MVP — Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Finals MVP — Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs