Ranking the NBA from worst to first…
30. New Jersey Nets (0-10) — During the lopsided part of the Pacquiao/Cotto fight, Jim Lampley enthusiastically said Cotto “almost landed a big left.” And he meant it in a good way. That’s how it’s been for the Nets; last week they almost beat Philly and Miami, so far the highlights of their season.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (1-10) — The rest of November has them facing Houston, Denver and Phoenix at home, and the Blazers, Nuggets and Clippers on the road. It could be a long couple of weeks.
28. New York Knicks (1-9) — Don’t worry, Eddy Curry is reportedly going to be back from injury this week.
27. Memphis Grizzlies (2-8) — After a tiny dose of dealing with Allen Iverson drama, who thought it was a good idea to bring in Jamaal Tinsley? If he doesn’t work out, who’s next: Pierre Pierce?
26. Golden State Warriors (3-6) — After what Brandon Jennings did to them over the weekend, GS finally decided to get somebody who can play defense; hence the Raja Bell-for-Captain Jack deal.
25. New Orleans Hornets (3-8) — Byron Scott falls on the sword, then Chris Paul falls on Joel Przybilla’s foot.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (3-6) — Stephen Jackson provides scoring punch and the crunch time go-to guy Charlotte hasn’t had. Is he enough to get them past their slow start and in position to challenge for the playoffs?
23. Washington Wizards (2-7) — Before the season, there was a battle for the starting two-guard spot. After giving up 41 points to Dwyane Wade and 29 to Ben Gordon last week, maybe the Wiz should reevaluate that competition. What’s Michael Cooper up to these days?
22. L.A Clippers (4-7) — All that talk about Baron Davis due to explode this season after a down year, and he’s shooting 39 percent from the field and 30 percent from three. Maybe Sunday’s big-time clutch performance in OKC will help turn things around for him.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (4-6) — Halfway through November, and Philly’s only wins this month have been against the Nets.
20. Oklahoma City Thunder (5-5) — A road win against fully-healthy San Antonio was supposed to be a big statement, but then OKC turned around and dropped one to the Clippers at home.
19. Sacramento Kings (5-4) — Kevin Martin gets hurt, Sacto runs off four wins in a row. How soon before we start getting those, “Are they better without him?” stories you used to get with Vince Carter in Toronto or still get with T-Mac in Houston?
18. Utah Jazz (4-6) — Random stat that we didn’t have time to fully research: Utah has more younger siblings playing major college ball than any team in the League. Elijah Millsap starts for Alabama-Birmingham, Charles Boozer comes off the bench at Iowa State, and Kaleb Korver plays for Creighton.
17. Detroit Pistons (5-5) — It’s not exactly Dwight Howard numbers, but not many people would’ve expected Ben Wallace to be good for 9.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks this season. It’s like he’s found the fountain of middle age.
16. Indiana Pacers (4-3) — Four wins in a row, including an upset of the Celtics over the weekend. They got Dahntay Jones for his defense, but his offense (16.4 ppg) has been a pleasant surprise. He dropped 25 points on Boston.
15. Chicago Bulls (5-4) — Is there more to Derrick Rose’s slow start than just a bad ankle? His numbers aren’t too far from his R.O.Y. digits, 13.8 points and 5.3 assists, but he just hasn’t had the same impact.
14. Toronto Raptors (5-5) — Chris Bosh has led the Raps in scoring in nine of their 10 games, and in rebounding in right games. As if you didn’t need a reminder that T-Dot really needs to re-sign him.
13. San Antonio Spurs (4-4) — Duncan and Parker are back, which somehow translated into a home loss to the Thunder. This team is notorious for its slow starts, so nobody should be too worried.
12. Milwaukee Bucks (5-2) — Yes, the Bucks are ranked ahead of the Spurs. No, this isn’t 1972. But if it were, the role of Tiny Archibald is being played by Brandon Jennings.
11. Houston Rockets (6-4) — We know this much; the Lakers don’t want to see them in the playoffs.
10. Orlando Magic (7-3) — Teams have definitely figured out the formula to beat the Magic: Get Dwight Howard in foul trouble, and pray the three-point shooters are having an off night.
9. Portland Trail Blazers (8-3) — Currently on a six-game win streak. Who cares if five of those W’s came against the Wolves (twice), Grizzlies, Bobcats and the sinking Hornets?
8. Denver Nuggets (7-3) — For a minute there, it was looking like Carmelo’s scoring average (29.7 ppg) would never dip below 30 this year.
7. Miami Heat (7-2) — Quentin Richardson and Marc Gasol are in a dead heat for the “Who is that guy?” award. Q looks like a completely different person after dropping some weight and losing the headband.
6. Dallas Mavericks (7-3) — Dirk Nowitzki deserves just as much early MVP talk as ‘Melo, Wade, Nash, Kobe, LeBron of whoever else is on your list. He’s putting up 25.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
5. Atlanta Hawks (8-2) — Friday’s road win at Boston was a huge statement. Ever since Joe Johnson publicly called the team out following a blowout loss to the Bobcats, they’ve won four straight against three ’09 playoff teams.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (7-3) –Having won four straight and with no predictably tough tests ahead until Nov. 28 against Dallas, the pieces are in place for another big run by the Cavs.
3. Boston Celtics (8-3) — Nothing like having the Warriors on the schedule when you’re looking to avoid a three-game losing streak and have a big game against Orlando coming up. Ray Allen is still looking to get going; he’s hitting 32 percent from beyond the arc. Rasheed Wallace is also looking to regain his stroke, shooting at a 31 percent clip from downtown.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (7-3) — Against the Nuggets the Lakers looked road-weary and sluggish. Against Houston they just got outhustled. We didn’t think it was possible with Kobe and Phil involved, but is this a post-championship hangover we’re seeing?
1. Phoenix Suns (9-2) — The Lakers fans won’t like it, but after what happened to the defending champs over the weekend, it’s hard to give L.A. the top spot. Yes, Steve Nash and crew lost decisively to the Lake Show, but they’ve been more consistent overall so far this season; still undefeated at home, having won five of their last six overall, getting vintage performances out of Nash, and career performances out of Channing Frye.