Ranking the NBA from worst to first…
30. New Jersey Nets (3-37)
Last week: Lost to Boston; lost to Indiana; lost at L.A. Clippers.
Rafer Alston’s been sending letters to the guys, telling them what it’s like on the outside. It’s been good for team morale.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (9-33)
Last week: Lost at Houston; lost at Memphis; beat Philadelphia.
In case you forgot Wayne Ellington was in the League, he had a couple breakout games last week. In the triple-OT loss to the Rockets (17 pts), he was called upon to take some crunch-time shots, and he delivered some of the time.
28. Golden State Warriors (12-27)
Last week: Lost to Miami; lost to Milwaukee; beat Chicago.
With a little more consistency, Andris Biedrins could be the Latvian Marcus Camby. He’s capable of pulling down double-digit boards and a handful of blocks — against the Bulls he posted 19 boards and eight swats — he can’t shoot and his form is ugly, and this season he’s been dealing with a series of injuries.
27. Washington Wizards (14-26)
Last week: Lost to Detroit; lost at Atlanta; lost at Chicago; beat Sacramento; beat Portland.
Wasn’t this supposed to be JaVale McGee’s year to step it up a notch? He’s getting even less PT (9 mpg) than his rookie season and barely making an impact. His four-block, three-rebound effort in 13 minutes against Sacramento was his best game in months.
26. Detroit Pistons (14-26)
Last week: Won at Washington; beat New Orleans; beat New York; lost at New York.
Snapped that 13-game skid in style with a three-game win streak. Rip Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey said it’s been as simple as trusting each other and sharing the ball.
25. Sacramento Kings (15-25)
Last week: Lost to Orlando; lost at Philadelphia; lost at Washington; lost at Charlotte.
Kevin Martin is shooting 33% from the field since coming back from his wrist injury. The Kings are 0-3 since he came back. But surely they’re glad to have him … right?
24. Philadelphia 76ers (13-27)
Last week: Lost to New York; beat Sacramento; lost at Minnesota.
“If I could fly myself,” Sam Dalembert said recently, “I’d go over [to Haiti] after every practice. Most likely, I’m going to go over there and distribute some stuff, pick up my brother and sister, and come back.” If you can spare anything, help the cause via the Dalembert Foundation.
23. Indiana Pacers (14-27)
Last week: Beat Phoenix; won at New Jersey; lost to New Orleans; lost at Miami.
During Indy’s recent three-game win streak, Danny Granger scored 28 ppg. In the more recent two-game losing streak, he’s down to 10 ppg. See a trend there?
22. Milwaukee Bucks (16-23)
Last week: Lost at Portland; won at Golden State; lost at Utah; lost at Houston.
How much does Jerry Stackhouse have left in the tank? He’s played a total of 10 games since the beginning of the ’08-09 season.
21. New York Knicks (17-24)
Last week: Won at Philadelphia; lost to Toronto; lost at Detroit; beat Detroit.
Apparently Nate Robinson is going to be in the dunk contest every year for the rest of his life. What can he do now that we haven’t seen before?
20. Los Angeles Clippers (18-22)
Last week: Lost at Memphis; lost at New Orleans; lost at L.A. Lakers; lost to Cleveland; beat New Jersey.
All the good feelings of that national TV win over the Lakers was washed away by a 40-point drubbing by Kobe and crew, and not helped by the news that Blake Griffin is done for the season.
19. Chicago Bulls (18-21)
Last week: Won at Boston; beat Washington; lost at Golden State.
Probably a little late for an All-Star nod, but Derrick Rose has been killing it; he came up big in crunch time to beat the Celtics, then dropped 37 and the game-winner on the Wizards.
18. Miami Heat (21-19)
Last week: Won at Golden State; won at Houston; lost at Oklahoma City; beat Indiana.
It’s looking like their ceiling is a 5th seed in the East. But without homecourt advantage — or even with homecourt — can you see Miami getting past Cleveland, Orlando, Boston or Atlanta?
17. Toronto Raptors (21-21)
Last week: Won at New York; beat Dallas; lost at Cleveland.
After the Raps dropped one to the Cavs, NBA TV’s Chris Webber brought up the fact that Hedo Turkoglu has nine games of less-than-double-digit scoring this season, compared to only five last season. He meant it like it was a good thing, since the Raps can still compete when Hedo is off. But what if it’s a sign Hedo is on the decline? They still owe him a lot of money over a few years.
16. New Orleans Hornets (21-19)
Last week: Beat L.A. Clippers; lost at Detroit; won at Indiana; lost to San Antonio.
Does any team rely on their star more than N.O. leans on Chris Paul? In losses to the Pistons and Spurs, the Hornets were still in it late, but when CP fouled out, you automatically knew they were cooked.
15. Houston Rockets (23-18)
Last week: Lost at Charlotte; beat Minnesota; lost to Miami; beat Milwaukee.
Playing sub.-500 ball in January, which isn’t quite underachieving; more like playing up to everybody’s original expectations. Tough test coming up at San Antonio on Friday.
14. Memphis Grizzlies (22-18)
Last week: Beat L.A. Clippers; beat Minnesota; beat San Antonio; beat Phoenix.
Sporting a 12-3 record since Dec. 18, and more importantly, they’re playing like they know they belong on the court with lite squads like the Suns and Spurs. If the Grizz keep this up, Rudy Gay may not bolt town next summer after all.
13. Charlotte Bobcats (20-19)
Last week: Beat Houston; beat San Antonio; beat Phoenix; beat Sacramento.
They haven’t just been beating good teams, they’ve been blowing them out. Average margin of victory against the Suns and Spurs? Twenty-one per game. The ‘Cats are 8-1 in January.
12. Utah Jazz (22-19)
Last week: Beat Cleveland; beat Milwaukee; lost at Denver.
Since his big breakout moment against the Cavs, Sundiata Gaines has played a total of three minutes. Apparently Jerry Sloan doesn’t believe in feel-good Disney stories.
11. Orlando Magic (26-15)
Last week: Won at Sacramento; lost at Denver; lost at Portland; lost at L.A. Lakers.
While the Magic were getting destroyed by a Roy-less Blazers team, the announcers said they’d recently had a team-only meeting where Stan Van Gundy was confronted about his confrontational methods and negative attitude. Anyone else see this playing out like the Byron Scott saga over the next year and a half? Keep an eye out for Orlando pulling a total flop in one 2010 playoff series.
10. Phoenix Suns (24-18)
Last week: Lost at Indiana; lost at Atlanta; lost at Charlotte; lost at Memphis.
Chevy Chase had smoother road trips than the Suns just had. Thankfully, this week they’re back home for the Nets, Bulls and Warriors.
9. Oklahoma City Thunder (23-18)
Last week: Lost to San Antonio; lost at Dallas; beat Miami; won at Atlanta.
Interesting week ahead for Kevin Durant. All on the road, head-to-head with Rudy Gay, a tune-up at Minnesota, then head-to-head with LeBron.
8. Portland Trail Blazers (25-17)
Last week: Beat Milwaukee; beat Orlando; lost at Washington.
What’s gotten into LaMarcus Aldridge? Three out of the last four games he’s grabbed 13-plus rebounds. Maybe if nobody else is there, you should have at least eight or nine fall into your hands.
7. Denver Nuggets (26-14)
Last week: Beat Orlando; beat Utah.
Chauncey Billups is dropping 24 points a night over his last five games, and that’s while shooting a subpar (for him) 87 percent at the line.
6. Boston Celtics (27-12)
Last week: Won at New Jersey; lost to Chicago; lost to Dallas.
The MLK Day loss to Dallas was the Celtics’ third straight L at home. They haven’t done that since the Gerald Green era.
5. San Antonio Spurs (25-15)
Last week: Beat L.A. Lakers; won at Oklahoma City; lost at Charlotte; lost at Memphis; won at New Orleans.
Twenty-piecing the Lakers was big, but even more impressive was knocking off a hot OKC team on the road without Tim Duncan. The Spurs are officially dangerous again.
4. Atlanta Hawks (26-14)
Last week: Beat Washington; beat Phoenix; lost to Oklahoma City.
Who would’ve thought that we’re in mid-January and Hawks/Bobcats on Friday is one of the important games to watch?
3. Dallas Mavericks (27-14)
Last week: Lost to L.A. Lakers; beat Oklahoma City; lost at Toronto; won at Boston.
Memo to the League: DOUBLE-TEAM DIRK NOWITZKI. Just try it. You might be surprised.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (32-11)
Last week: Lost at Utah; won at L.A. Clippers; beat Toronto.
Shaq cracked 28,000 career points during Tuesday’s win over the Raptors. If he keeps playing the way he has, who knows? He might even top 28,200 sometime this year.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (32-9)
Last week: Lost at San Antonio; won at Dallas; beat L.A. Clippers; beat Orlando.
Bad back, broken fingers, sore knees … what will it take to get Kobe to take a break? Is he going after A.C. Green’s record or something? If he could depend on his bench and role players to get it done like they did against the Magic, maybe Kobe would be compelled to take a rest.