The NBA: Top 10 Stories of 2013

Happy New Year!

Last year provided us with compelling and exciting basketball from Miami's win streak to the struggles of the Lakers, Nets and Knicks to the surprising trade of KG & PP and to Dwight's change of address again.

Here's a recap of the best stories of 2013 and hopefully we get better and bigger things for 2014!

The Miami Heat won again in 2013. Can they do it for a 3rd time in 2014?
(Image from: ESPN)
1. Heat Repeat
The Miami Heat was favored to win back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013 and they managed to do that thanks to the greatest 3-point shooter in NBA history, Ray Allen hitting that crucial corner three in Game 6. Miami went on to win in OT and then finish the Spurs in Game 7. Just imagine if the Heat lost that game and the series, LBJ would be 1-2 in the Finals with Miami and the Big 3 would most probably be separated. Instead, LeBron James solidified his claim as one of the best ever by winning his 2nd straight ring and Finals MVP. Miami is on rarefied ground with the chance to 3-Peat.

2. 27- game win streak
One of the NBA team records that probably will never be broken is the 33-game win streak of the LA Lakers during the 1971-72 season. The Heat had a realistic chance to beat that record during a 2-month run where they won 27 straight including wins over the Thunder, Celtics, Knicks and Pacers. They lost to a hurting Bulls team who played inspired ball. Afterwards, Miami admitted to having a very hard time playing every team like it was the playoffs due to their opponents' desire to not only beat the champs but to end their winning streak as well.

3. Hollywood Horror Show
The 2012-13 version of the LA Lakers included Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, MWP and Antawn Jamison. They were considered by most (myself included) to be favorites to represent the West in the NBA Finals and quite frankly, pummel the Heat to win the title. This did not happen and the Lakers were hit with injuries and chemistry problems. They almost missed the playoffs but they managed to make it, then the Spurs handily swept them in the 1st round.

Dwight Howard left Hollywood to play with James Harden
(Image from: USA Today)
4. Free Agency
Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Andre Iguodala, Monta Ellis and Al Jefferson were among the unrestricted free agents who decided that they needed a change of scenery. D12 was the biggest name in the market and at least 4 teams wanted him (Lakers, Rockets, Warriors, Mavericks). The Lakers even went out of their way by unveiling billboards across the city that implored Dwight to stay with them. Suffice to say, the message did not work and Howard signed with the Houston Rockets. This was the first instance in recent memory where a marquee player decided to leave Lala-land.

5. Brooklyn Celtics
Head coach Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics orchestrated a move that made him the new coach of the LA Clippers during the summer. Rivers wanted to avoid a rebuilding situation with the Celtics so he joined a contending team. The Celtics sensed that without Rivers and Rajon Rondo, they will struggle to be competitive in 2013-14. They decided to trade Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for draft picks and expiring contracts. So far, the Celtics are winning the trade because they have more wins than the Nets.

We hope and pray that Derrick Rose does NOT get injured again
(Image from: USA Today)
6. Thorny Rose
We waited 18 long months for 2011 MVP Derrick Rose to come back from his ACL injury. D-Rose was great during pre-season but he was somewhat ineffective and rusty during his 11 games in the regular season. Still, I envisioned a long process where Rose would work his way into game shape and start delivering explosive performances. Alas, another season-ending injury robbed us of seeing D-Rose play. Two major injuries to both his knees are problematic and there's a chance that we may never see the D-Rose of 2011 again. I hope that I am wrong.

7. Tanking
It's hard to teach players that losing games fosters a winning attitude and atmosphere but in the NBA, this happens a lot especially when the incoming batch of rookies provides major potential. The Eastern Conference has only 4 teams playing at 0.500 and the rest are playing for lottery balls. The 2014 draft could have at least 6 topnotch players who could all become franchise players (Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Dante Exum, Julius Randle, Joel Embiid, Marcus Smart) and then another 10-15 guys who could be above average players.

Kobe Bryant suffered a torn Achilles tendon in April
(Image from: AP)
8.Black Mamba
When Kobe got hurt last April, his expected return was from 6-9 months. Bryant came back in early December and played 6 games (Lakers went 2-4) before going down with a broken bone in his leg that would require 4-6 weeks of recovery. His absence presents a big hole in the Lakers' lineup and his team is mired in a losing streak that could ruin any chance they have of making the playoffs. The Lakers are trapped in limbo, wondering if they should forget this season or try to compete. Even when Kobe gets back, the Lakers are not good enough to make noise in the playoffs.

9. State of Shock
The state of New York hosts two basketball teams that are pretty awful at the moment. The Knicks and Nets are a combined 21-42 and are languishing near the bottom of the standings. The Raptors, Bobcats and Wizards are teams that are playing a lot better than them. The Nets and Knicks had high hopes of challenging Miami in the East and both have failed miserably. On the bright side, the season is not over yet and there's enough time for both teams to make a furious rally to make the playoffs.

10. Injuries SUCK
Injuries are always part of the game but 2013 might be remembered as the year where a lot of star players (Kobe, Rondo, Rose, Gasol, Iguodala, Westbrook, Horford) got hurt. The injuries did not stop there as major role players (Lou Williams, Gallinari, Chandler, Redick, Sanders, etc) had their turns on the injury list. Here's hoping that 2014 does not provide us with a long injury list.

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