8 Early Turning Points of the NBA Season
The first month of the 2012-13 NBA season has featured no shortage of twists and turns, from the Los Angeles Lakers struggling after the summer acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to the Charlotte Bobcats already matching their 2011-12 win total.
One prominent coach has already hit the unemployment line, there's an abundance of MVP candidates to choose from, and November ended with a bang due to a coach vs. commissioner showdown.
When looking back on November, certain moments stand out as pivotal.
From injuries to trades, firings to winless streaks being snapped, these seven events will go down as the more memorable moments from the first month of the 2012-13 NBA season.
Note: All statistics and records are current through games on Nov. 30.
Oct. 21: Amar'e Stoudemire out with Ruptured Cyst in Knee
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The Knicks originally announced on Oct. 21 that Amar'e Stoudemire would miss two to three weeks due to a ruptured cyst behind his left knee, meaning that he'd miss the start of the season but presumably return by mid-November.
Instead, as December rolls around, Stoudemire is still nowhere to be seen. Carmelo Anthony seized Stoudemire's job as the starting 4 and has particularly thrived in the role, helping the Knicks rumble out to an 11-4 record, leaving the wide-open question of where to slot Stoudemire in the lineup once he's healthy enough to return.
To Stoudemire's credit, on Nov. 29, sources reportedly close to his thinking told ESPNNewYork.com that he'd be perfectly fine coming off the bench, as he's far more concerned with doing whatever it takes to help the team continue its hot start.
Marc Berman of the New York Post reported Nov. 30 that Stoudemire was hoping to return around Christmas, meaning the Knicks presumably have roughly three more weeks of the Anthony show before worrying about how to integrate Stoudemire back into the lineup.
Oct. 25: Commissioner David Stern Announces Timeline for Retirement
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Shortly less than a week before the start of the 2012-13 season, at the league's Board of Governors meeting on Oct. 25, NBA commissioner David Stern made the surprise announcement of his intention to retire, setting an eventual departure date of February 1, 2014.
Stern's planned retirement date marks the 30th anniversary of when he took the job. He's the longest-tenured commissioner in professional sports.
Despite heading into the twilight of his commissionership, Stern hasn't been shy about wading into controversy in recent years. He drew NBA fans' ire as the voice of the owners during the 2011 lockout, then created one of the best Twitter hashtags in recent memory by voiding the New Orleans Hornets' trade of Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers for "basketball reasons."
As you'll see later in this list, Stern even found a way into some serious drama within the first month of the 2012-13 season, thanks to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
When Stern does retire in February of 2014, deputy commissioner Adam Silver will succeed him.
Oct. 27: The Oklahoma City Thunder Trade James Harden to Houston
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Three days before the start of the 2012-13 season, the Oklahoma City Thunder made the first major splash by trading James Harden to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and a handful of draft picks.
In doing such, the OKC front office dissolved what was turning out to be the most threatening young Big Three in all of the NBA. Alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Harden helped guide the Thunder to the 2012 NBA Finals, where they fell to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in five games.
Harden appeared hell-bent on making the Thunder regret parting ways with him, dropping 37 points in his opening game with the Rockets and 45 points on 19 shots in his second.
His shooting numbers have regressed to the mean since then, but he's still done more than enough to prove that he's worth the five-year, $80 million contract that Houston handed him after completing the trade.
The Thunder, meanwhile, have just been chugging along, dominating the rest of the Western Conference just like nothing happened. You know, the usual.
Martin has adequately stepped into Harden's role as the microwave scorer off the bench, and with Harden gone, Durant and Westbrook have both taken it upon themselves to take more responsibility creating offense for their teammates.
Oct. 31: Steve Nash Fractures His Fibula Against the Portland Trail Blazers
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After losing their opening night game against the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers were mortified to see Steve Nash go down with a fractured fibula the next night against the Portland Trail Blazers, putting an immediate damper on their splashy offseason moves.
Without Nash running the offense, the Lakers ground to a halt despite Kobe Bryant's best efforts to keep the team afloat. Steve Blake initially took over as the replacement starting point, but an abdomen strain suffered against the Sacramento Kings on Nov. 11 kept him sidelined through the rest of November, too.
Sophomore Darius Morris was the next man up, although he's not exactly been lighting up the scoreboard as a starter. Bryant has gone back to being the Lakers' main offensive option in the backcourt, both in terms of scoring and creating offense for his teammates.
Amazingly, despite the defensive attention being thrown his way, Bryant is off to the best start in his career, as ESPN's Tom Haberstroh recently broke down in painstaking detail.
If anything, besides the concern about the team's record, Lakers fans now must be most worried about how Nash will work alongside Bryant once he's integrated back into the lineup, and whether he'll adversely affect the groove that Bryant finds himself in.
Nov. 9, 12: The Los Angeles Lakers Fire Mike Brown, Hire Mike D'Antoni
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When a team acquires a two-time MVP and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year to pair alongside a five-time NBA champion, a 1-4 start is the last thing anyone is expecting.
Especially when that team is the Los Angeles Lakers.
Mike Brown started the season as the Lakers coach with a giant target on his back, given his attempt to force the read-heavy Princeton offense upon the team.
Seeing as that offense takes a good bit of time to learn to run smoothly, especially with new teammates, the Lakers went through some early-season hiccups that came as a major surprise to fans expecting a world-beater right out of the gates.
Brown was fired after winning only one of the Lakers' first five games, with the team often looking utterly lost on offense. Three days later, despite major flirtations with former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni was named head coach.
The Lakers ripped off two straight 110-point performances after beginning to implement D'Antoni's fast-paced offensive system, but still haven't worked out all of the kinks 15 games into the season.
Nov. 25: The Philadelphia 76ers Announce Andrew Bynum Is out Indefinitely
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The Philadelphia 76ers' Andrew Bynum experiment has only gone from bad to worse to cover-your-eyes-and-don't-ever-read-about-him-again in the course of two months.
First, Bynum missed the preseason to recover from the Orthokine knee treatment he received in Germany, the same procedure that reportedly made Kobe Bryant feel years younger in 2011-12.
On Nov. 18, Bynum announced that he had suffered a "setback" in his rehab from bowling, with new damage in his left knee and a "weakened cartilage state." Exactly one week later, the 76ers announced that Bynum would be out indefinitely, saying that his knees "are not the same" as they were in the summer of 2012 when the team traded for him.
At this point, it's reasonable to question whether Bynum will ever play a game in a Sixers uniform, as he's scheduled to become a free agent in the summer of 2013.
In a perfect world, Bynum will come back healthy at some point in 2012-13, play like the 2010 monster that he's capable of being and re-sign a long-term contract in Philadelphia next summer. But that's become less of a sure thing than ever after the first month of the season.
At least his hair game is still fresh.
Nov. 28: After 12 Straight Losses, the Washington Wizards Win a Game
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The Washington Wizards started the 2012-13 season with their two best players, John Wall and Nene, sidelined by injuries. Guess how that worked out?
The Wizards were 0-9 before Nene returned to the lineup on Nov. 21. He helped the Wizards put a real scare into the Atlanta Hawks, but they ended up falling short by one point.
It took three more games and a full week for the Wizards to register their first win, an 84-82 snoozefest against the Portland Trail Blazers in Washington. The Wizards went almost seven minutes in the fourth quarter without scoring a basket, but eked out a win after Emeka Okafor drained the two deciding free throws with 39.1 seconds left.
The Wiz got blistered by the New York Knicks two nights later, losing by 21 points. But at the very least, their win against the Trail Blazers put to bed any questions about the team matching the worst start in NBA history, set by the then-New Jersey Nets in 2009-10 (0-18).
And, for the record, the Wizards aren't this historically bad. Once Wall returns to the lineup, they'll at least be more competitive most nights, barring any further injuries to their main contributors.
Nov. 29: Gregg Popovich Benches San Antonio Stars, Draws Wrath of David Stern
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Of any moment from the first month of the NBA season, here's guessing that Restgate will go down as the most memorable.
On the heels of sweeping five road games in eight nights, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich decided on Nov. 29 to send a healthy Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home a day early, instead of keeping them around for that night's road game against the defending champion Miami Heat.
Despite playing without those four (along with Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson, who are both recovering from injuries), the Spurs' reserves nearly upset the Heat at home, before a late Ray Allen three-pointer buried them.
NBA commissioner David Stern wasn't swayed by the performance of the Spurs' reserves, however. Before the game, he announced that he would be levying "significant sanctions" against the Spurs for Popovich's decision to send his stars home a day early, and the next day, he announced a $250,000 fine for the franchise.
Stern's decision was nearly universally panned, most viciously by noted Stern critic Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, and drew out an incalculable number of "When is his retirement date, again?" jokes.
Meanwhile, after a decade of going largely unnoticed despite running what's seen around the league as a model franchise, the Spurs finally had their night in the spotlight against Miami on Thursday, albeit for all the wrong reasons.