Carmelo Anthony has been the LeBron James of 2010-11, despite his claim of wanting to handle things differently. Ever since the Nuggets offered Anthony a three-year, $65 million contract extension in June -- which the star forward has held off on signing -- rumors and reports of his next move have hovered over the season. Remember Chris Paul's infamous toast at Carmelo's New York wedding in July? Remember the Nets' first failed trade attempt in September? Remember that three-team deal that appeared hours away from completion in January before being pronounced dead on Jan. 19? Yeah, welcome to the NBA's 'Melo-drama.
2 of 20Robert Sullivan/AFP/Getty Images
As the league and team owners continue to push for salary cutbacks and additional budget cuts, the players continue to resist. With the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire June 30, the two sides remain far apart, and even union chief Billy Hunter admitted there's a "99 percent" chance a lockout will happen.
3 of 20Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
With three of the top players in the league donning black and red Heat jerseys, Pat Riley's star-studded roster instantly drew comparisons to the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls -- the one that went 72-10 -- before it even played a game. Could the Heat top 72? Are we witnessing the NBA's next dynasty-in-the-making? Who can possibly top this team? Well, all questions were answered with Miami's shockingly mediocre 9-8 start. But after a loss in Dallas in late November, things start clicking for the Heat's Big Three: They won 21 of their next 22 games and were 30-13 through Jan. 19.
4 of 20Chris Graythen/Getty Images, Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images
When Hornets founder and majority owner George Shinn (left) failed to find a buyer for his stake in the franchise, NBA commissioner David Stern decided the league should step in "to assure stability and the adequate funding of the franchise." Shinn, who founded the team in 1988 in Charlotte and moved it to New Orleans 14 years later, had been trying to sell his majority stake to Gary Chouest since last spring, but talks fell through. With the NBA as its new owner, a lockout looming, Chris Paul's free agency nearing and relocation a possibility, the Hornets' future holds more questions than answers in the season's second half.
5 of 20AP (2); Greg Nelson/SI (3)
LeBron's "Decision" to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami left Cleveland fans bitter and angry, none more so than Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. So when James returned to his former home for the first time as a Miami player, fans at the Q, inevitably, took it to him. The signs ("Just like the playoffs: LBJ still now here") and T-shirts ("LeBum"), the chants ("Akron hates you") and boos (every time James touched the ball) were all there in abundance on Dec. 2. Unfortunately for Cavs fans, so was James' best showing of the season. The two-time MVP had 38 points, eight assists and five boards in Miami's 118-90 rout.
6 of 20Greg Nelson/SI
The Mavs gave up Erick Dampier's expiring, non-guaranteed contract -- prime trade bait -- in a deal with Charlotte that netted Tyson Chandler. At the time, fans seemed more annoyed by Dallas' miniscule return on the deal. 'Tis no more. After years of nagging injuries, the 7-foot-1 center has given the Mavs a defense that's just as a stellar as their offense. The Mavs' field-goal defense and rebounding have improved considerably over last season, while Chandler is averaging a near double-double (9.1 points, 9.1 rebounds) after missing 68 games over the past two seasons with foot injuries.
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Yao just can't catch a break. In mid-December, doctors discovered a stress fracture in his left ankle -- the one above the surgically repaired foot he's fractured three times, the last of which cost him the entire 2009-10 season -- and he underwent surgery on Jan. 6. The 7-foot-6 Yao is in the final year of his contract and said he won't retire. Meanwhile, the Rockets have been approved for a disabled player exception, which allows the team to either acquire a free agent or trade for a player who matches up to the mid-level player exception.
8 of 20Craig Bennett/Icon SMI
The 22-year-old and former top pick in the draft, who's played only in 82 NBA games since entering the league in 2007, was ruled out for the entire season (again) to have microfracture surgery on his left knee. But Oden wasn't alone on the Blazers' bench. Brandon Roy underwent surgery on both knees and Marcus Camby is scheduled to have a torn meniscus repaired in his left knee. All told, eight players have missed a combined 143 games through Jan. 19, and five players have required surgery on their knees.
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When Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton signed with the Knicks as free agents last summer, many New York fans were disappointed. They wanted LeBron. But since coming to New York, where the scrutiny of the local media runs high and the recent win total of the Knicks had been really, really low, the duo has brought basketball love back to the city. After lumbering to a 3-8 start, the Knicks won 13 of 14 and are now second in the Atlantic Division. Stoudemire has turned into an MVP candidate, and Felton has gained notice for Most Improved Player.
10 of 20John W. McDonough/SI
Griffin, a double-double machine and All-Star candidate for the Clippers, has single-handedly provided more highlight-reel dunks than anyone in recent memory. He's revitalized a franchise that has almost always been a laughingstock, and he's brought hope for a semi-decent All-Star Slam Dunk Contest in February. What more could you ask from a rookie?
11 of 20Damian Strohmeyer/SI
His gaudy assist totals have nearly spiraled out of control, to the point where he seems more interested in stat-padding than making a smart play. Nonetheless, it's hard to find fault (well, maybe his turnovers) in a guy leading the league with 13.2 assists per game, up from 9.8 last season. Guess we should have seen this coming: In only the third game of the season, he dished out a career-high 24 dimes against the Knicks -- the most from a Celtic since Bob Cousy's 28 in 1959.
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Magic GM Otis Smith gave his team a much-needed shakeup (two, really) and even managed to get rid of Rashard Lewis' albatross contract -- he's the second-highest paid player in the league behind Kobe Bryant -- along the way. Smith sent Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat and a 2011 first-round pick to Phoenix in exchange for sharpshooter Jason Richardson, forward Hedo Turkoglu and forward Earl Clark. And in a separate blockbuster deal, Smith sent swingman Lewis to Washington for troubled-though-talented guard Gilbert Arenas in a straight swap. The Magic were 1-6 leading up to the deals. They've since gone 11-5.
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In mutual agreement with Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, "Next Town" Larry Brown, one of the league's top 10 winningest coaches, announced he would step aside as Charlotte coach. Paul Silas was appointed interim coach and outspoken former Knick Charles Oakley was named an assistant. As for Brown, where he ends up is anyone's guess.
14 of 20Manny Flores/Icon SMI; AP
The always-outspoken Mavs owner has taken shots at Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov (his comment is not appropriate for this gallery) and Jackson ("Jeanie Bus' boy-toy"). Really, it's nothing new or shocking from Cuban. But he hasn't been alone in dishing out verbal jabs. Jackson has been a critic of nearly everyone in the league, from his own players (hi, Kobe), to opposing coaches (Erik Spoelstra and Stan Van Gundy), to opposing players (Steve Nash, Deron Williams), to even shot-clock operators. No one is free from the wrath of Cuban and the Zen Master.
15 of 20Darrell Walker/Icon SMI; AP
Teammates fighting over a game of Bourre on an airplane -- sound familiar? In a disturbing deja vu of the Gilbert Arenas incident, which started with the card game on an airplane and ended with guns in a locker room, O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen got in a heated argument on the Grizzlies' charter plane. Though the team tried to end discussion of the incident before it got blown out of proportion, it did ban gambling on team flights.
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It apparently started on the court and ended up in Twitter. Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva, whose complete loss of hair is a result of the disease Alopecia, tweeted "KG called me a cancer patient" after an early November loss in Boston. Kevin Garnett's agent later issued a statement saying KG was misunderstood and actually told Villanueva that he was "a cancer to his team."
17 of 20Newspix/Icon SMI
One of the greatest scorers in NBA history took his talents overseas after NBA teams refused to take him in. Iverson signed a two-year, $4 million deal with Besiktas in Turkey, where he was greeted by mobs of adoring fans the minute he arrived on the scene. He later suffered a lesion on his right leg and returned home for exams and surgery.
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Love had always been able to rebound. But in a 112-103 win over the Knicks, the Timberwolves' big man proved just how good he is at grabbing boards. The 6-10 Love pulled down a franchise-record 31 rebounds and scored 31 points against New York on Nov. 12, becoming the first player to have a 30-30 game since Moses Malone on Feb. 11, 1982, when he torched Seattle with 38 points and 32 rebounds.
19 of 20Greg Nelson/SI
The Spurs embraced a new (for them, anyway) up-tempo style of play to jump to the top of the standings -- a spot they have yet to relinquish, thanks to in good part to their backcourt of Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. San Antonio took only four losses by New Year's and hit the midway point on pace for 70 victories. Tim Duncan, whose minutes were reduced this season, became the franchise's all-time leader in points and games played, surpassing David Robinson's previous records of 20,790 career points and 987 games.
20 of 20Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
With the Nuggets' 123-116 win over the Raptors on Dec. 10, Karl became the seventh NBA coach to reach the four-digit plateau. His feat was even more amazing given that he missed the latter part of the 2009-10 season to undergo treatment for cancer, his second battle with the disease.
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