Originally Published: December 28, 2012

1. 2012: The Year In Numbers

Stein By Marc Stein
Lebron JamesUS Presswire/AP/Getty ImagesAn MVP award, an NBA championship and an Olympic gold medal. Yeah, it's good to be the King.

Our annual Year in Numbers compilation was initially conceived as a Former Newspaper Guy's attempt to be as statistically relevant as our old friend Professor Hollinger at least once every 12 months.

As 2012 dribbles to a close, now there's a new challenge: Life After Hollinger.

Pressure's on.

Yet as I've always believed, there are plenty of numbers out there for everyone on Planet Roundball. So we forge ahead with another assemblage of relevant digits, in the time-honored tradition of year-end reviews that you expect from all the media types in your life during holiday season, to bid adieu to an NBA calendar year that belonged to No. 6 in Miami most of all.

With a helpful nudge from the always-assisting Ernest Tolden, Justin Page and all our friends from ESPN Stats & Information, as well as the Elias Sports Bureau, let's go recapping:

In the first of the year's nine coaching changes, Sacramento replaced Paul Westphal with Keith Smart on Jan. 5. The other teams that would follow suit to keep the coaching carousel spinning: Washington (Flip Saunders out, Randy Wittman in), New York (Mike D'Antoni out, Mike Woodson in), Portland (Nate McMillan out, replaced first by Kaleb Canales and then by Terry Stotts), Charlotte (Paul Silas out, Mike Dunlap in), Orlando (Stan Van Gundy out, Jacque Vaughn in), Los Angeles Lakers (Mike Brown out, D'Antoni in) and Brooklyn (Avery Johnson out, P.J. Carlesimo in).

On Jan. 19, Oklahoma City awarded a five-year, $79 million contract extension to Russell Westbrook. Serge Ibaka later landed a four-year, $49 million deal from the Thunder in August, with coach Scotty Brooks also scoring a new four-year deal shortly after the NBA Finals. But three big-money signings -- as you'll see when you make it down to October -- proved to be OKC's limit.

Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesLinsanity took New York City along for a wild ride.

A twice-waived point guard named Jeremy Lin, after 13 DNP-CDs in his first 23 games as a Knick, unexpectedly got his long-awaited shot from then-Knicks coach D'Antoni in early February. Over the next 29 games, 18 of them New York wins, Lin left oblivion behind forever with the sort of fantasy flourish no scriptwriter could have concocted, averaging 18.5 points and 7.6 assists to give birth to the phenomenon that will forever be known as Linsanity.

Linsanity was so absorbing, such a fairy tale, that it merits at least two entries in a row. So here's to the seven straight wins in February with Lin as the Knicks' main spark -- all with Carmelo Anthony out injured -- starting with his 25 points off the bench in a win over the Nets on Feb. 4.

You couldn't have asked for a more fitting regular-season matchup than the Golden State at Philadelphia game on March 2, bringing together two basketball communities on opposite coasts with deep ties to the late, great Wilt Chamberlain on the 50th anniversary of Wilt's 100-point game.

After near-daily trade speculation that overshadowed virtually everything happening in the NBA for the first three months after the 2011 lockout was lifted, Dwight Howard stunned everyone on March 15 by opting into the final season of his contract worth $19,536,360 and waiving his right to become a free agent July 1, thus prompting Orlando to take him off the trading block.

Back surgery in April then wound up sidelining Howard for the final 12 games of his farewell season in Orlando, as well as the first round of the playoffs, after he missed just seven games in his first seven NBA seasons.

In early April, with Lamar Odom averaging an anemic 6.6 points per game, Dallas and Odom mutually agreed to part ways. The Mavs' luck with former Lakers wasn't much better in December, either, when Derek Fisher and Dallas also parted company by mutual consent after Fisher played in just nine games.

Guess who led the league in dunks last season? Presumably you don't need more than a solitary guess to nominate Blake Griffin, who predictably got there with precisely 192 slams before making more significant noise in July by signing a max contract extension that ties him to the Clippers through 2017.

With only seven wins in 66 games, Charlotte wound up recording the lowest single-season winning percentage in NBA history at .106, even worse than Fred Carter's unforgettable 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers who went 9-73 (.110).

The Bobcats' average nightly point margin of -14.3 was the second-worst of all-time, eclipsed only by Dallas' average nightly margin of -15.2 in 1992-93 in an 11-71 season.

Denver, San Antonio and Oklahoma City were the only three teams to average 100 points per game during the lockout-shortened season, down from 11 in 2010-11 and the league's lowest total since only two teams managed it in 2003-04.

In another indicator of the rust inflicted by the five-month work stoppage, 17 teams shot worse than 45 percent from the floor in 2011-12, more than the previous two seasons combined (15).

Kevin Durant
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty ImagesKevin Durant is sharp ... on and off the court

At 23 years and 6 months old, Kevin Durant supplanted one of my boyhood heroes -- then-Buffalo Braves scoring machine Bob McAdoo -- as the youngest player to win three straight scoring titles. 20-year-old Kyrie Irving, meanwhile, brought the Rookie of the Year trophy back to Cleveland as the Cavs' new post-LeBron beacon of hope.

Durant and Kobe Bryant entered the final week of the 2011-12 regular season locked in the closest scoring race in league history before KD ultimately won it by 0.17 of a point (28.0 ppg to Bryant's 27.9). That margin made it the second-closest race ever seen behind the mere .07 that famously separated George Gervin and David Thompson in 1977-78.

Even with a mere 66 games to work with, San Antonio won 50 games for the 13th successive season, clinching its 15th successive playoff berth as the West's No. 1 seed.

Because of the lockout-condensed schedule, NBA teams combined to play 42 sets of back-to-back-to-back games in 2011-12. Seven teams swept all three games; San Antonio was the only team to do it twice.

John Hollinger ultimately left ESPN.com for the Memphis Grizzlies before 2012 ran out, but his famed PER formula will remain an NBA staple here in Bristol. So it's in Hollinger's honor that we make note of LeBron James registering a PER of 30.8 for the 2011-12 season, his third in the 30s to move within one of Michael Jordan's career-high four seasons with a 30+ PER.

After 112 regular-season wins over two seasons, tops in the NBA in that span, Derrick Rose tore his left ACL on a Game 1 drive against Philadelphia on April 28 and hasn't played in the 243 days since. It had just been announced by the NBA, on April 26, that Rose was No. 1 in domestic jersey sales.

The New Jersey Nets, on April 30, officially became the Brooklyn Nets, giving the cursed borough of New York sports its first professional team since the Dodgers bolted for Los Angeles in 1957.

The Spurs' home victory over Oklahoma City in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals stretched their winning streak, including a 10-0 finish to the regular season, to a ridiculous 20 W's in a row. Then the story got even wilder when the Thunder reeled off four straight victories of their own to bump the franchise they were modeled after out of the Finals.

In what's universally recognized as the finest game he's ever played, LeBron James made 12 of his first 13 shots on the Boston Celtics' floor on June 7, 2012. With the Heat facing a 3-2 deficit in the Eastern Conference finals, LeBron wound up with a stunning 45 points and 15 boards in a 98-79 victory that not only saved Miami's season but also, quite possibly, changed the course of his career.

On June 21, LeBron became the first player in nine years, since San Antonio's Tim Duncan in 2003, to win the regular-season MVP trophy and NBA Finals MVP award in the same season after leading the Heat to four straight victories over the Thunder following Miami's Game 1 loss on the road.

LeBron James
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty ImagesLeBron James had a postseason for the ages.

The Heat likewise became the first team ever to win a championship after trailing in three different playoff series -- 2-1 to Indiana, 3-2 to Boston and 1-0 to OKC -- during a single postseason. Miami is just the seventh team to drop the opening game of the Finals and then win four straight.

With 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists in the Game 5 clincher against the Thunder, LeBron emerged as just the sixth player (along with Tim Duncan, James Worthy, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson twice) to post a triple-double in a title-sealing victory.

A mere 42 days after being named NBA executive of the year, Larry Bird resigned his post in charge of the Indiana Pacers' front office on June 27.

At the tender age of 19, Anthony Davis enjoyed a 2012 that could only be topped by LeBron's. On June 28, after leading Kentucky to a national championship as college basketball's player of the year, Davis was drafted No. 1 overall by the New Orleans Hornets ... and would later snag a gold medal as an unexpected 12th man on Team USA.

Steve Nash, one of only two multiple-MVP winners without an NBA championship on his résumé (along with Karl Malone), made the splashiest move of any free agent in July when -- hotly pursued by Toronto and New York -- he convinced the Suns to sign-and-trade him to the hated Lakers for two first-round draft picks and two second-rounders. Jason Kidd heading to New York as Carmelo Anthony's new mentor with the Knicks, after initially indicating he'd be staying in Dallas, was another biggie.

No matter how weak the opposition was, I will never forget what it was like to watch a team of American all-stars drain 29 3-pointers and inflict an 83-point pummeling on helpless Nigeria in pool play at the London Olympics. The hard-to-fathom final score: Team USA 156, Nigeria 73. Highly doubtful that I'll ever cover another game with a margin in the 80s.

When he was finally dealt to the Lakers in a massive four-team blockbuster on Aug. 10, after months of back-and-forth waffling about whether he wanted to stay or go, Dwight Howard left Orlando ranked No. 1 in Magic history in points (11,435), rebounds (8,072), blocks (1,344) and, yes, even free throws made (3,366). And in a major departure from his trademark light-heartedness, Howard is also widely regarded now as the NBA's No. 1 villain after the monthslong Dwightmare, hard as that is to believe when looking back at the bulk of his time in the Magic Kingdom.

Andrew Bynum moved from Los Angeles to Philadelphia in the same blockbuster deal after making his first All-Star team in 2012 ... but also after missing 130 of a possible 394 games over a five-season span with the Lakers. Bynum has yet to play for the Sixers, 29 games into the new season, because of ongoing issues with both knees.

By the narrow margin of 107-100 against its old friends from Spain, Team USA repeated as Olympic basketball champions in London on Aug. 12. The heavily favored Yanks survived Pau Gasol's beastly third quarter and LeBron James' second-half foul trouble to finish the tournament with an average victory margin of 32 points -- compared to 43.8 points for the Dream Team in 1992 -- after an even closer gold-medal game than the 118-107 final against Spain in 2008 in Beijing.

The triumph over Spain allowed Mike Krzyzewski to wrap up his four-tournament run coaching the NBA's best, knowing that any loss would be treated back home as a national disaster, with 50 consecutive wins.

After 18 seasons, all with the Indiana Pacers, Reggie Miller headlined the 2012 Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Class on Sept. 7, giving Springfield its first-ever brother/sister combo by following sis Cheryl Miller's footsteps into the Hall.

Miller is 14th all-time in NBA scoring with 25,279 career points and ranks second in 3-pointers (2,560) behind Ray Allen (2,718).

The other NBA headliner from the 2012 Hall of Fame class was three-time NBA Coach of the Year Don Nelson, who ranks No. 1 all-time in regular-seasons wins with 1,335.

The NBA announced new anti-flopping regulations on Oct. 3 which resulted in Brooklyn's Reggie Evans, just before Thanksgiving, earning the first NBA fine triggered by a flop, costing him $5,000.

In a dramatic change to the NBA All-Star ballot announced Oct. 24, there are now only two position choices available to voters -- guards and frontcourt players -- in a nod to the dwindling number of centers in the modern game.

The sale of the Memphis Grizzlies from Michael Heisley to a group led by Robert Pera, for a reported $377 million, was unanimously approved by the NBA's Board of Governors on Oct. 25.

I was already a high school freshman when David Stern was installed as NBA commissioner, but it's a struggle to remember what this league was like before Stern's forceful rule. Stern's Oct. 25 announcement that he's stepping down on Feb. 1, 2014 -- 30 years to the day he succeeded Larry O'Brien -- means he's down to just over 12 months to go before Adam Silver steps into those big wingtips.

Daryl Morey, James Harden
AP Photo/Pat SullivanThe Rockets got their man in James Harden.

$26 million. That's the difference between the five-year, $79 million contract extension James Harden got from Houston on Halloween and the four-year, $53 million final offer that Harden received from Oklahoma City on Oct. 27 ... which led to the Thunder abruptly (and stunningly) trading him to the Rockets roughly an hour later when Harden wouldn't accept it.

Oh, yeah: Harden quickly left the impression that he just might be worth all that money by scoring 82 points in his first two games as a Rocket.

The NBA started on time in 2012-13 with lockout hell suffocating hockey instead of basketball this fall and winter, 56 days earlier than the Christmas Day launch of the 2011-12 campaign.

NBA teams began the new season with a record-tying 84 international players from 37 countries and territories on opening-night rosters.

Five games. That's all Mike Brown got in charge of Kobe, Pau, Dwight and Nash in Lakerland. Within hours of ESPN.com reporting that Brown needed a successful homestand to save his job after a 1-4 start, Lakers officials decided to move up that timetable before Brown had the chance to win a couple games to ease the pressure, ousting him in the third-fastest firing in league history.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich won his second NBA Coach of the Year award in May, but that won't be what his 2012 is remembered for. It'll surely be the $250,000 fine that the Spurs incurred in late November after Pop decided to put four starters (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green) on commercial flights back to South Texas on the same day of a nationally televised game in Miami in the name of getting his vets extra rest in the wake of a road-heavy start to the season.

On Dec. 5 in New Orleans, with a runner in the lane, Kobe Bryant became just the fifth player in NBA history to score 30,000 points. At 34 years and 104 days old, Bryant will go down as the youngest of the five to reach 30K, though he needed 1,161 regular-season games to get there compared to Wilt Chamberlain, at 35, hitting 30,000 points in 941 games.

Boston's Paul Pierce became the 25th player in NBA history to cross the 23,000-point threshold on Dec. 13 ... and just the 12th to do so playing for only one team.

San Antonio's Tim Duncan quickly followed Pierce's lead on Dec. 18 to become only the 13th player in NBA annals to get to 23,000 points wearing only one uniform.

After missing more than nine months with two tears in his left knee, Minnesota's Ricky Rubio returned on Dec. 15 and did this.

The Knicks might be off to their best start in forever at 21-8, but Jeremy Lin's Rockets have already swept the season series from New York thanks to two wins by a combined 41 points. On Dec. 17, five months to the day the Knicks announced they wouldn't match his three-year, $25 million offer sheet from Houston, Lin rumbled for 22 points and eight assists in his ballyhooed Madison Square Garden return.

After surprising even himself by beating out Phil Jackson for the Lakers' job, Mike D'Antoni had to coach his first 16 games in L.A. without Steve Nash. After Dallas let Nash go in the summer of 2004 amid fears that he wouldn't hold up physically, Nash missed only 39 games over the next eight seasons in Phoenix before suffering a fractured fibula in his left leg halfway through his second game as a Laker.

When Sacramento suspended DeMarcus Cousins on Dec. 22 in the wake of a heated argument with Keith Smart, it marked the fourth time in 2012 that the enigmatic big man was suspended by his team or the league. Fearless prediction for 2013: We'll be talking lots about Cousins next year, too, given how much trade speculation his constant head-butting with Kings officials has already generated.

The Bobcats entered the weekend on a 16-game losing streak since a 7-5 start no one on Earth projected, making Michael Jordan's franchise the first in NBA history to endure three droughts that long in one calendar year. Charlotte also lived through skids of 16 and 23 games last season.

Deron Williams and Avery Johnson
AP Photo/Kathy WillensThe move hasn't been a smooth one for Brooklyn.

Few remember it now, but Avery Johnson actually had the highest winning percentage of any coach in NBA history when the Nets hired him. The Lil' General went 194-70 in four-plus seasons in Dallas for a success rate of .735, then registered a mark of 60-116 in two-plus seasons with the Nets before his dismissal Thursday for a winning percentage of .341.

In related Nets news, Deron Williams is shooting a career-worst 39.8 percent from the floor this season.

Late in 2011, Chris Paul dominated headlines when he was traded by New Orleans to the Los Angeles Lakers, only to wind up with the L.A. Clippers when David Stern, acting as lead decision-maker at the time for the then-league-owned Hornets, told New Orleans' basketball people to cancel the first trade for "basketball reasons." By late December 2012, as the NBA's undisputed No. 1 point guard, Paul had sparked the Clippers to a franchise-record, Buffalo Braves-usurping 17 wins in a row ... good for the top spot in ESPN.com's weekly and daily NBA Power Rankings Remember the days of yore when we used to have all those CP3-or-D-Will debates?

There might never be another year like it for LeBron Raymone James, who won his first NBA championship and his second Olympic gold medal to go with his third regular-season MVP award and first Finals MVP trophy. His Airness, in 1992, is the only other player in basketball history to do all those things in the same year. No wonder James, on Nov. 27, officially reclaimed the No. 1 spot from Derrick Rose on the NBA's most popular jersey list.

Dimes past: Dec. 11 | 12 | 13 | 14-15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21-22 | 23 | 25 | 26 | 27


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