The Five Biggest Surprises of the 2009-10 NBA Season
Although the 2009-10 NBA season is just three quarters of the way done, it's already been one of the most eventful seasons of the last decade.
From massive player improvements to spectacular plays, lots of the action we've seen this year will be looked back by generations to come. Take a look at five of the biggest eye-poppers this season has had to offer.
5. The New Jersey Nets
When I participated in a round table article with other B/R notables Erick Biasco, Andrew Ungvari, Robert Kleeman, and Allen Levin prior to the season, we answered a series of questions predicting how the 2010 NBA season would turn out.
When we were asked who would wind up as the worst team in basketball, nobody picked the Nets. Most of us picked the Kings, who finished with the worst record in the NBA last season.
Nobody expected the Nets to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2003, but nobody expected them to sink to historic levels of ineptitude either, even with the departure of Vince Carter.
The Nets are on pace to become only the second team in NBA history to finish the season with single-digit wins—and this is supposed to be one of the places LeBron James is to consider going?
Yeah. You know what, New Jersey? On behalf of LeBron, don’t call him. He’ll call you.
4. Brandon Jennings
If I had heard a prophet predict that a rookie would score 55 points in a game prior to the start of the season, I would have called him a heretic —that or a really big Blake Griffin optimist.
Alas, Griffin’s logged as many NBA minutes this season as Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, but the prophecy was still fulfilled.
Brandon Jennings’ 55-point outburst on Nov. 14 is probably going to victimize him in the long run as some will unfairly expect similar contributions from him in the future. But at least he’s guaranteed a spot for himself in the history books.
In the eyes of many fans, Jennings has already solidified himself as the most entertaining player to don a Bucks uniform since Ray Allen — and the most recent image I have of Ray Allen in a Bucks uniform is on the cover of NBA ShootOut 2003.
Making something out of dead franchises seems to be all the rage these days i.e. LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Kevin Durant, among others. If you’re aiming for that category, Jennings, I wish you all the luck in the world. You’ll need it.
3. The Posterization of Anderson Varejao
Nobody ever accused Anderson Varejao of being a great defender, but seeing him getting brutally slammed to the floor by a man half his size, albeit a few dozen times his talent, was one of the most shocking phenomena of the last decade.
Welcome to the very, very short list of all-time posterizations seen in the last 15 years, Andy.
The exclusive list features such moments as Kobe Bryant deflowering Steve Nash in ‘06, Shaq slamming on Dikembe Mutombo any number of times in the 2001 Finals, LeBron James dunking on the entire Celtic team in the 2008 playoffs and Vince Carter jumping over that 7-foot guy for the most ferocious dunk the Olympics has ever seen.
2.The Boston Celtics
From the start of the 2007-08 season until the end of the 2008-09 season, the Celtics had only lost 16 games in Boston—playoffs included.
Now they’ve set pace to match that total in the regular season of this year alone.
Throw in the unforgivable home loss to the Nets, which gave them only their third road win in 30 tries, and the season is teetering on disaster for the Celtics.
With the signing of Rasheed Wallace, the return of Kevin Garnett, and the emergence of Rajon Rondo as a premier point guard, the Celtics were expected to run away with the Eastern Conference. Instead, they’re only seven games ahead of fifth-seed Toronto.
For a team whose roster looks more and more like an All-Star lineup than a championship-contender, the Celtics have become one of the biggest disappointments of the season.
Although the Celtics have been fighting a multitude of injuries, there’s little excuse for their staggering fall from grace, especially given that they play in the weaker of the two conferences and the softest division in the game.
Despite all of the Celtics haughty boasts including Wallace’s prediction that the Celtics would make a run at the 72-win ‘96 Bulls regular-season record and Kevin Garnett guaranteeing that the Celtics would win the next two-straight championships, the Celtics have yet to translate their talk into anything of substance this year.
1. LeBron James
They kept saying he would get better; I just refused to believe it. Now I have to.
Guess how many players in the last 24 years have averaged 30 or more points per game on 50 percent shooting?
He wore a No. 23 jersey, too.
Although Kobe’s nagging injuries have placed him at a disadvantage, LeBron James has established himself as the runaway MVP—and now, the best player in basketball.
In only six seasons, James has accomplished all there is to accomplish, with the exception of one thing, winning a championship.
From day one, he’s enjoyed the kind of worldwide respect and adoration typically reserved for championship-winning veterans, but even LeBron’s star power has its limits—and he’ll likely discover them if he fails to carry his team to a championship this season.
Fans and analysts alike have already penciled LeBron’s name into the 2010 NBA Finals and with the Celtics seemingly on their way out and the Magic unable to gain any form of consistency, there’s little room for argument.
If the Lakers are unable to find greater consistency of their own and conquer the Western Conference for the third-consecutive year, LeBron’s postseason schedule may not feature an opponent with anything resembling an answer for him.