At the divine intersection of the regular season and the playoffs, it's time to provide context to a year filled with spectacular play and disappointing results.
The postseason will soon erase the heroics of the 82-game schedule, as new heroes will emerge and conference finishes will become irrelevant.
The rewards of success cannot be collected by every team or player, and for every winner, there must be a loser.
Here are the winners and losers of the 2012-13 NBA regular season.
Carmelo Anthony won the first scoring title of his career at 28.7 points per game.
His outpouring of scoring led the New York Knicks to a second seed in the East, the franchise's best conference finish since 1993-94.
Carmelo Anthony won the scoring title. Anthony is the second New York Knicks player to win the scoring title (Bernard King won it in 84-85).— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) April 18, 2013
This is what it was supposed to look like when the Knicks traded for Anthony in 2010-11.
Anthony is a six-time All-Star with a reputation as purely a scorer. But this season he contributed on the other side.
Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today wrote:
But it's his offensive efficiency that made a difference. The Knicks scored 110.5 points per 100 possessions with Anthony on the floor this season, the second-highest offensive rating in his career and eight points better than last season.
Anthony told Zillgitt it was his best regular season.
"I would say that. I would say that by far," he said, according to the USA Today article. "Just as far as the team's success, how I've been playing, how much fun it's been for myself, for everybody."
Kyrie Irving called it a business decision when he was asked about the firing of his Cleveland Cavaliers coach, Byron Scott.
In this video published by Dan Kadar of the Akron Beacon Journal Online, Irving seems sullen, talking about his emotions running high after losing his "basketball father."
He said that he and Scott were speechless when they saw one another.
Kyrie says his relationship with Byron Scott "didn't deteriorate one bit." He seemed genuinely upset, spoke in somber tone. #Cavs— M.S. Boyer/J. Valade (@PDcavsinsider) April 18, 2013
It's a bitter ending to an unfair season in Cleveland.
The team dealt with injuries and illness throughout the season. Its budding superstar, Irving, hasn't proved able to stay healthy.
Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer summarized:
Well, Kyrie, you played only 11 games at Duke because of a foot injury. You missed 15 games in 2011-12, and 23 games this season with various injuries. If someone says you're injured, the tendency is to believe them.
The team never had a fair shake this season.
Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao only played 25 games because of a quadriceps injury. He was averaging a double-double with 14.1 points and 14.4 rebounds when he was lost for the season.
Even rookie Dion Waiters, despite a successful first year with 14.7 points per game, had an injured left knee as the season ended. He missed 21 games.
George Karl is the coach of the year.
After starting the season below .500 (11-12), the Denver Nuggets finished by winning 46 of their next 59 games.
The Nuggets secured a No. 3 seed in the Western Conference and home-court advantage in a first-round matchup with the Golden State Warriors.
He has built his fast-paced style and scheming around Denver's talent, as the league’s highest-scoring team at 106.1 points per game ran the table.
They score inside better than any team in the league by far, with 58 points in the paint per game. They also lead the league in fast-break points at 20 per game.
They say you cannot win without a superstar? Well, Karl is that superstar.
Kosmicki, on 57-win Nuggets team facing @warriors: "George Karl said, 'They say you can't win w/o a superstar in NBA. I'm gonna try to.'"— Brian Murphy (@knbrmurph) April 18, 2013
He has created a superstar by perfecting the team’s focus around the pace of Ty Lawson. Karl has gotten the most from his talent—guys like Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer and Kenneth Faried—while utilizing his depth.
It's about balance. Only one player, Andre Iguodala, has played more than 30 minutes per game in April.
It was the worst loss of a Los Angeles Lakers season that was littered with bad ones.
Even those with the greatest disdain for Kobe Bryant didn't want to see it end like this.
There’s never a good time for a complete tear of the Achilles’ tendon, but on April 12, Bryant’s season-ending injury came at a disheartening juncture.
Gregg Popovich on Kobe Bryant's injury: "It's an awful thing and makes you sick to your stomach."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) April 15, 2013
Despite all the injuries including an awful ankle sprain, Bryant played 78 games this season and averaged 27.3 points in 38.6 minutes per game. He shot 46.3 percent from the field, his highest efficiency since 2008-09.
As the Lakers sneaked into the postseason without him, it’s a loss for everyone not to see what show Bryant had in store for the playoffs.
The first-round matchup between the Lakers and San Antonio Spurs just won’t feel the same without No. 24.
Chris Paul has officially turned this franchise around.
The Los Angeles Clippers finished with the fourth-best record in the Western Conference thanks to Paul's leadership and production.
Paul played 33.4 minutes per game and stayed mostly healthy through 70 games. He averaged 16.9 points and 9.7 assists in the regular season. He also deserves more credit for his bullying defense and on-floor coaching.
Paul should land a spot on the All-NBA first team as the league's top point guard. He's a decision-maker who can score when necessary, but he is most interested in working the offense.
If the postseason doesn't work out, the Pacific Division title and a No. 4 seed are still noteworthy accomplishments.
The Chris Paul "we want to raise a banner" commercial always makes me think "you have that Pacific Division one, man. Hang that."— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) April 18, 2013
There’s still a crack in the window, and Derrick Rose could sneak into the Chicago Bulls’ postseason.
But for now, as it has been since Rose went down with the ACL injury last postseason, nobody knows when he'll return.
All that exists is the constant stream of who-knows soundbites from the Bulls.
Tom Thibodeau on ESPN just now talking about Derrick Rose: "He's not quite ready, but there's always a possibility."— Rod Boone (@rodboone) April 18, 2013
So let’s just settle into the thought that Rose probably won’t come back this season.
It’s been a complete mastery of overachieving by Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau in leading the Bulls to a fifth spot in the Eastern Conference.
But as good as Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and others have been this season, Chicago could have been a true contender with a healthy Rose.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that will happen this season.
The top two teams in the Western Conference this season are the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs.
There's little reason to be surprised.
With all the early talk regarding the newly stocked Los Angeles Lakers or the Lob City Los Angeles Clippers, this year's battle to play in the finals again could come down to the Spurs and Thunder.
Kevin Durant is the Most Valuable Player not named LeBron James, losing the scoring title but still averaging 28.1 points per game.
Durant's player efficiency rating this season was second highest behind James at 28.35. Durant led the league in players with 10 or more shot attempts per game with a 64.7 true shooting percentage.
The Thunder earned the West's best record, but it was Tim Duncan's latest career season that had the Spurs in the top spot for most of the year.
Duncan, at 36 years old, ranked sixth in PER at 24.45. That's his highest mark since 2009-10.
This one is obvious.
The Miami Heat won a franchise-record 66 games this season. In an odd way, because of their dominance, the Heat are being overlooked.
So here's a refresher of notables to demonstrate Miami being the biggest winners of them all:
— @MiaHeatNews (@MiaHeatNews) April 18, 2013
The 27-game win streak was the second-longest streak in NBA history. Through the team's streak from Feb. 3 to March 25, the Heat shot 50.8 percent and tallied 104.5 points per game. They won by a margin of 11.5 points per game.
Congrats to the Miami Heat on their 27 game win streak!— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) March 29, 2013
Within that window of nearly two months, James scored 27 points per game on 57.5 percent shooting and tallied eight assists and 8.1 rebounds. James will win another Most Valuable Player award this season.
The award should be named after him.
CNN just reported that LeBron James has officially been named the NBA's 2016 MVP— Michael Pina (@MichaelVPina) April 17, 2013
Wade finished No. 8 in scoring at 21.2 points per game and did so at 51.9 percent shooting, the best mark of his career. Bosh shot 53.5 percent for an efficient 16.6 points per game.
Well, that one didn't work; no team wants to get the worst of a four-team trade.
But as it turned out, the Philadelphia 76ers lost an entire season on the bad knees of Andrew Bynum.
They gave up a heap of talent. Nikola Vucevic averaged 13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds in 77 games at center for Orlando, while Andre Iguodala defended and ran his way into the postseason.
And Bynum never played a single game.
When the bet keeps losing, it rarely works to double-down. But 76ers owner Josh Harris might be forced into taking that bet.
"The Bynum thing obviously has been very disappointing," Harris said, according to Philly.com. "There's no one scenario that is determinable right now. Of course we're going to look at bringing Bynum back...a healthy Bynum playing is a needle-mover."
Bynum was paid $16.5 million last season, and the 76ers can opt to pay him big dollars to return or look elsewhere.
This season, though, was just one large loss. The only guy to cut his losses is Doug Collins, who stepped down as coach, according to ESPN.