On July 2, 2008, the city of Seattle and the Seattle SuperSonics (owned by the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-based Professional Basketball Club LLC) reached a settlement where the defendants agreed to pay $45 million to relocate the team to Oklahoma City, retain the SuperSonics' players, coaches, and contracts, and "share" the SuperSonics' franchise history with a hypothetical future Seattle team. However, the SuperSonics name, colors, and logo will remain reserved for a future Seattle club. The team was named the Oklahoma City Thunder on September 3, 2008.
On July 23, 2008, restricted free agent Josh Childress signed with Euroleague club Olympiacos for three years and $20 million net (the biggest signing in Euroleague history), marking the first departure of an American-born player to Europe in the prime of his career.
On October 23, 2008, the NBA Board of Governors (owners) approved expanded use of instant replays for this season to determine if made baskets would be worth two or three points, and to award either two or three free throws on shooting fouls.
On December 10, 2008, Carmelo Anthony scored 33 of his season-high 45 points in the third quarter in a win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, breaking the franchise record and equaling the league record for most points in a quarter.
On February 8, 2009, the Los Angeles Lakers broke the Cleveland Cavaliers' 23-game home-winning streak. In doing so, the Lakers became the first team in NBA history to win back-to-back games on the road (Boston and Cleveland) against teams with .800-plus win percentages at least 40 games into the season.
On March 3, 2009, in the NBA's third annual Noche Latina event, a program that recognizes the NBA's fans and players from across Latin America and U.S. Hispanic communities, the Los Angeles Lakers wore celebratory jerseys (with the wording Los Lakers) in their 99–89 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Noche Latina celebrations took place in eight of the top ten American Hispanic markets in the NBA this season (up from four in 2007–08): Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, San Antonio, Dallas, Chicago, Houston and New York.
On March 10, 2009, the Utah Jazz won their 12th game in a row. That was the fourth-longest win streak in franchise history and the longest since 1999. It was later broken by a loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
On March 15, 2009, the Phoenix Suns scored the third-highest number of points in a regulation game—without overtime—in a 154–130 win against the Golden State Warriors. They also scored 56 fast-break points, the highest recorded since the league began tracking the stat in 1997. The win also included two 40+ point quarters, 42 in the first and 46 in the third.
On March 21, 2009, Shaquille O'Neal moved from sixth all-time leading scorer to fifth, surpassing Moses Malone.
On April 2, 2009, the NBA teamed up with NRDC for the first-ever NBA Green Week 2009 in an effort to generate awareness and funds for protecting the environment. The week featured special on-court apparel, auctions to support environmental protection organizations, hands-on community service projects and the launch of a PSA featuring Hollywood icon and NRDC Trustee Robert Redford. The Denver Nuggets, the Charlotte Bobcats, and the Chicago Bulls wore green-colored uniforms and socks made from 45 percent organic cotton during select home games throughout the week to raise additional environmental awareness. NBA partner adidas outfitted all players with 100 percent organic cotton adidas shooting shirts featuring the NBA Green logo, which were worn during every game that week.
On April 10, 2009, Kobe Bryant moved from the 18th all-time leading scorer to 17th, surpassing Charles Barkley.
On April 15, 2009, the Cleveland Cavaliers finished the season with a home record of 39–2, just one game shy of matching the all-time record.
On April 15, 2009, Shaquille O'Neal led the league in field goal percentage for an NBA-record tenth time.
On May 9, 2009, Hall of Fame head coach Chuck Daly died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 78. For the entire NBA Playoffs, all NBA coaches and commentators wore pins with the initials "CD" on their suits to honor the Hall of Fame coach.
On May 21, 2009, Sam Cassell retired after 15 seasons in the NBA, at age 39.
On December 23, 2008, the Boston Celtics recorded the best two-loss start in NBA history (27–2), in a 110–91 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. They also broke a franchise record for the longest winning streak (18) with their 19th consecutive win. Their winning streak came to an end after a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
On January 13, 2009, the Orlando Magic made an NBA record 23 three-pointers against the Sacramento Kings. Nine of the twelve Magic players who played in the game made at least one three-pointer.
On March 15, 2009, the Phoenix Suns scored 56 fast-break points against the Golden State Warriors, the most recorded in a single game since the league began tracking the stat in 1997.
On April 15, 2009, the Raptors' José Calderón topped the 1980–81 Rockets' Calvin Murphy for the NBA record for free-throw percentage. Calderón made 98.1% of his free throws in the season, missing only 3 of the 154 he took, taking the record from Murphy's mark of 95.8%.
Denver finished ahead of San Antonio based on head-to-head record (2-1) and Portland based on divisional record (the Nuggets' 12-4 to the Trail Blazers' 11-5), while San Antonio finished ahead of Portland upon winning the Southwest Division.
Teams in bold advanced to the next round. The numbers to the left of each team indicate the team's seeding in its conference, and the numbers to the right indicate the number of games the team won in that round. The division champions are marked by an asterisk. Home court advantage does not necessarily belong to the higher-seeded team, but instead the team with the better regular season record; teams enjoying the home advantage are shown in italics.
The NBA announced that the salary cap for the season would be $58.680 million, immediately going into effect on July 9 as the league's "moratorium period" had ended and teams could begin signing free agents and making trades.
The tax level for the season was set at $71.150 million, with each team paying a $1 tax for each $1 by which it exceeds $71.150 million. The mid-level exception was $5.585 million for the season and the minimum team salary, which was set at 75% of the salary cap, was $44.010 million.
For the 2007–08 season, the salary cap was set at $55.630 million ($3.05 million), the tax level was $67.865 million ($3.285 million) and the mid-level exception was $5.356 million ($229,000).
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