Season Review: 2009-10
Take a look back at the 2009-10 NBA season, in which the Lakers repeated as NBA champions.
From NBA.com Staff
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In the months preceding the 2009-10 NBA season, there were no shortage of noteworthy news items. The 2009 Draft saw a barrage of future All-Stars hear their names selected in a Draft class that featured Blake Griffin going No. 1 overall to the LA Clippers. Also taken in that class were future MVPs Stephen Curry and James Harden, future All-Stars in Curry, Griffin, Harden, Jrue Holiday, DeMar DeRozan and Jeff Teague and stable, championship-winning veterans such as Danny Green, Patty Mills and others.
On Sept. 11, 2009, a quartet of NBA legends — Michael Jordan, John Stockton, David Robinson and Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan — were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Weeks later, the NBA approved the use of instant replay to determine whether a 24-second violation occurred during play and to determine possession of the ball in the last two minutes of games.
The season opened with 83 international players on NBA rosters, tying the mark set in the 2006-07 season. While there was plenty of new blood in the NBA that season, a former MVP and iconic player was gearing up for his final season. Allen Iverson began the 2009-10 season with the Memphis Grizzlies, but played only three games with them before being waived. He announced his retirement shortly thereafter, but that did not last long as he returned to the Philadelphia 76ers — whom he played for from 1996-2006 — to play out his final season.
While LeBron James gripped writers, fans and teams throughout the season with his pending free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers marched along on their quest for a second straight title. But the road was hardly clear. The upstart Oklahoma City Thunder — led by that season’s scoring champion, Kevin Durant — climbed to 50 wins to make the Western Conference as tough as ever.
The Phoenix Suns were strong in 2009-10, amassing 54 victories in a bounce-back campaign fueled by Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire and recent additions Jason Richardson, Grant Hill and Channing Frye. Every team that made the playoffs in 2009-10 won at least 50 games, with seven of the eight teams winning 53 games or more.
In the Eastern Conference, James and the Cavs continued to look like a regular-season juggernaut. After compiling a franchise-best 66-16 mark in 2008-09, Cleveland was strong again and finished with an NBA-best 61-21 mark. Behind James, the NBA’s second-leading scorer (29.7 ppg), the Cavs held off stiff charges for the No. 1 spot from the Orlando Magic (59-23), Boston Celtics (50-32) and Atlanta Hawks (53-29).
The season was not without its dramatic moments, although one off-the-court incident will likely linger in the memory of many when it comes to the 2009-10 campaign. In December of 2009, Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton were involved in a dispute stemming from a card game on a team flight. Arenas brought four guns to the locker room and set them in front of Crittenton’s locker with a sign telling him to “PICK 1.” Crittenton then took out his own gun. As a result of the incident, Crittenton and Arenas were both suspended for the rest of the 2009-10 season.
Change was afoot in New Jersey, where the Nets had clearly fallen out of contention in the East after a run of success earlier in the 2000s. The team played its final game at the Izod Center on April 12 and would move to the Prudential Center for the next two seasons. After that, the team — purchased by Russian businessman Mikhail Prokhorov months earlier — would move to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center.
The playoffs got rolling and, after a slow regular-season finish, the Celtics surprised the basketball world by waking up in the postseason. Though they finished with 50 wins, pundits hardly expected the Celtics to run through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Yet they did exactly that, ousting the LeBron-led Cavaliers and Dwight Howard-led Magic in consecutive rounds, the former adding fuel to the fire about James’ potential to leave Cleveland in the offseason.
In the West, the Lakers avoided an upset from the Thunder by taking them down 4-2 in the first round. The rest of the series went as planned, although the Jazz did upset the Nuggets 4-2. The Suns and Lakers squared off in the West finals in a renewal of a familiar rivalry from both the recent past and NBA history. Phoenix gave Los Angeles all it could handle, but timely shooting from Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant’s overall greatness propelled the Lakers back into The Finals.
Up 3-2 against the Lakers in The Finals, the Celtics could not close it out, losing two consecutive games — including a tight defensive battle in Game 7 — and giving viewers a classic series in the process. In perhaps one of the best moments in Finals history, Artest came up clutch in Game 7 with a 3-pointer that essentially sealed the championship for L.A. in a tough-fought game.
Afterward when asked about how much the fifth title meant to him, Bryant replied, “Just one more than Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal). You can take that to the bank. You know how I am. I don’t forget anything.”
Eastern Conference first round
Atlanta defeated Milwaukee (4-3)
Boston defeated Miami (4-1)
Cleveland defeated Chicago (4-1)
Orlando defeated Charlotte (4-0)
Western Conference first round
Los Angeles Lakers defeated Oklahoma City (4-2)
Phoenix defeated Portland (4-2)
San Antonio defeated Dallas (4-2)
Utah defeated Denver (4-2)
Eastern Conference semifinals
Boston defeated Cleveland (4-2)
Orlando defeated Atlanta (4-0)
Western Conference semifinals
Los Angeles Lakers defeated Utah (4-0)
Phoenix defeated San Antonio (4-0)
Eastern Conference finals
Boston defeated Orlando (4-2)
Western Conference finals
Los Angeles Lakers defeated Phoenix (4-2)
Los Angeles Lakers defeated Boston (4-3)
Points — Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder (30.1)
Assists — Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns (11.0)
Rebounds — Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic (13.2)
Steals — Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics (2.3)
Blocks — Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic (2.8)
FG% — Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic (61.2)
FT% — Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns (93.8)
3PT% — Kyle Korver, Utah Jazz (53.6)
Most Valuable Player — LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Rookie of the Year — Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
Defensive Player of the Year — Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Most Improved Player — Aaron Brooks, Houston Rockets
Sixth Man of the Year — Jamal Crawford, Atlanta Hawks
Coach of the Year — Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City Thunder
All-Star Game MVP — Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Finals MVP — Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers