Ranking the NBA from worst to first…
30. New Jersey Nets (2-22)
Last week: Won at Chicago; lost to Golden State; lost at Indiana; lost at Atlanta.
Can anybody out there tell us if the Nets have been bad enough to crack the joke rotation on Jay Leno’s 10 p.m. show? Has anybody been watching Jay Leno’s 10 p.m. show?
29. Philadelphia 76ers (5-18)
Last week: Lost to Denver; lost to Detroit; lost to Houston.
After playing four NBA games in nine months, Allen Iverson returned full-time to face Chauncey Billups, Ty Lawson, Rodney Stuckey, Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry in succession. Up next? Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry on Monday night.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (3-20)
Last week: Lost to New Orleans; lost at L.A. Lakers; lost at Sacramento.
Corey Brewer’s dunk on Derek Fisher was so nasty, DJ Mbenga had to reach out and hug his nearest teammate for comfort. Something about flashbacks, we heard. Seriously, though, check the replay and watch Mbenga’s reaction on the bench.
27. Indiana Pacers (8-13)
Last week: Lost to Portland; beat New Jersey; won at Washington.
Tyler Hansbrough has been producing starter numbers lately and generally playing better than a lot of people expected, but the Pacers still should have drafted a point guard. Looks like they’ll have another Lottery pick to get it right next summer.
26. Golden State Warriors (7-16)
Last week: Lost at Oklahoma City; won at New Jersey; lost at Chicago; lost at Detroit.
It’s more fun to blame Nellie, the front-office and shoot-first guys like Monta and Maggette, but the reality is that GS has been decimated by injuries; most notably losing Andris Biedrins, Kelenna Azubuike, Raja Bell, Ronny Turiaf and Brandan Wright either for long stretches or for the whole season.
25. Chicago Bulls (8-14)
Last week: lost to New Jersey; lost at Atlanta; beat Golden State; lost to Boston.
Not only did Brad Miller get some get-back on Rajon Rondo for what happened in last year’s playoffs, Miller did the MLB pitcher thing and acted like it was a total accident when he clocked Rondo in the face.
24. Washington Wizards (7-14)
Last week: Lost to Boston; lost to Indiana.
Two crushing losses, one to a good team and one to a bad team, both games the Wizards gave away thanks to missed free throws, defensive breakdowns and bad decision-making.
23. Los Angeles Clippers (9-13)
Last week: Lost to Orlando; lost to San Antonio.
Between watching Baron Davis slowly go from popular NBA star to under-the-radar even when he’s playing in a major market and seeing Blake Griffin wearing street clothes sitting behind the bench looking depressed, is there any big-name free agent who’s going to want to sign with the Clippers even if they can make max dollars?
22. Sacramento Kings (10-12)
Last week: Lost at New Orleans; lost at San Antonio; beat Minnesota.
With all the hype surrounding Tyreke, Jason Thompson had a couple “Don’t forget about me” games last week, capped by a 23-point, 12-board effort against the Wolves.
21. Milwaukee Bucks (11-13)
Last week: Lost at Boston; beat Toronto; beat Portland.
Michael Redd played 29 minutes off the bench and scored 11 points in his first game back after cutting his last comeback short, but it looks like he’ll have to fight Carlos Delfino and Luke Ridnour for his spot in the rotation.
20. New York Knicks (8-15)
Last week: Beat Portland; won at New Orleans.
They’re 5-1 in December, and the defense has actually held four of those opponents below 100 points.
19. Toronto Raptors (10-15)
Last week: Lost at Milwaukee; lost to Atlanta; beat Houston.
DeMar DeRozan, defensive specialist? It definitely looked that way when the rookie shut down Trevor Ariza on Sunday. It’s not what they drafted him for, but the Raps won’t complain about anything that improves their D.
18. Charlotte Bobcats (9-13)
Last week: Beat Denver; lost at San Antonio; lost at Dallas.
It’s time to stop automatically excluding Gerald Wallace from All-Star consideration because he plays for the ‘Cats. He’s putting up 16.5 points, 12.2 boards and 1.6 steals and has head-to-head wins over LeBron and Carmelo where Crash arguably outplayed them both.
17. Memphis Grizzlies (10-13)
Last week: Beat Cleveland; lost to Oklahoma City; won at Miami.
Going 9-5 since the middle of November has Memphis fans recalling the, um, glory days of Pau Gasol and Bonzi Wells.
16. New Orleans Hornets (10-12)
Last week: Beat Sacramento; won at Minnesota; lost to New York.
So you knew the Darren Collison thing wouldn’t last once Chris Paul came back, but to tune of 3.2 points and 3.5 assists? Collison’s PT has been dropping by a couple minutes a night as CP gets his legs back under him.
15. Miami Heat (11-11)
Last week: Lost to Dallas; lost to Memphis.
Sunday’s blowout loss to the Grizzlies necessitated a team meeting where D-Wade and Erik Spoelstra said players called each other out and aired out some differences. Let’s see how they respond against the Raps on Tuesday.
14. Detroit Pistons (11-12)
Last week: Won at Philadelphia; beat Denver; beat Golden State.
Quietly rolling along and winning games with unexpected contributions from Jonas Jerebko, Ben Wallace, Chucky Atkins and Will Bynum. Good sign: Rip Hamilton returned to put up 18 points against the Warriors and it didn’t throw off the recent good chemistry.
13. Portland Trail Blazers (14-11)
Last week: Lost at New York; won at Indiana; lost at Cleveland; lost at Milwaukee.
All eyes are on Brandon Roy to carry the Blazers through this stretch where they’ve been decimated by injuries, but don’t forget they’re paying LaMarcus Aldridge a lot of money to do some big things, too.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (13-10)
Last week: Beat Golden State; won at Memphis; lost to Cleveland.
Tough week ahead with Denver, Dallas, Detroit and Houston on the schedule. Doesn’t get any easier next week as they travel to the Lakers and Phoenix.
11. San Antonio Spurs (12-9)
Last week: Lost at Utah; beat Sacramento; beat Charlotte; won at L.A. Clippers.
A favorable stretch of schedule leads to a much-needed win streak. Manu Ginobili averaged 19.6 points in that time.
10. Houston Rockets (13-10)
Last week: Beat Cleveland; won at Philadelphia; lost at Toronto.
The messed-up part is that if the Rockets start losing when (if?) Tracy McGrady comes back, he’ll get all of the blame and everybody will forget that Houston wasn’t supposed to be any good this year anyway.
9. Phoenix Suns (16-8)
Last week: Lost at Dallas; beat Orlando; lost at Denver.
Since Leandro Barbosa went down with an ankle injury, the Suns have gone 2-5. Unfortunately he’s still expected to miss about two more weeks.
8. Denver Nuggets (17-7)
Last week: Won at Philadelphia; lost at Charlotte; lost at Detroit; beat Phoenix.
Just when you were ready to hand Chauncey’s All-Star spot to somebody else, he slaps up a 30-point game here and some second-half daggers there and reminds you why he can’t be denied.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers (17-7)
Last week: Lost at Memphis; lost at Houston; beat Portland; won at Oklahoma City.
LeBron had two 40-point games last week, hitting 48% of his threes
6. Orlando Magic (17-6)
Last week: Won at L.A. Clippers; lost at Utah; lost at Phoenix.
There’s got to be more to Dwight Howard not getting the ball as much as he should, e.g. getting just one field goal attempt against Phoenix. It can’t be that his teammates don’t look for him. Does Dwight need to work on establishing better position and making himself more available?
5. Utah Jazz (14-9)
Last week: Beat San Antonio; lost at L.A. Lakers; beat Orlando; beat L.A. Lakers.
Has any team had a more daunting one-week schedule than Utah’s last week? The fourth-quarter collapse in L.A. was fugly, but otherwise the Jazz looked great. Remember, even in the L.A. loss they were ahead after three quarters.
4. Dallas Mavericks (17-7)
Last week: Beat Phoenix; won at Miami; beat Charlotte.
If it hasn’t started already, Dirk Nowitzki’s MVP campaign needs to get going. Of course Jason Terry is among the front-runners for Sixth Man of the Year. Now what about Erick Dampier (8.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.2 bpg) for Most Improved? Of course you’d have to give Jason Kidd a third of that trophy.
3. Atlanta Hawks (17-6)
Last week: Beat Chicago; won at Toronto; beat New Jersey.
Can you imagine a Celtics/Hawks Eastern Conference Finals series? Constant montages of the Bird vs. ‘Nique shootout and other goodness from the ’80s.
2. Boston Celtics (19-4)
Last week: Beat Milwaukee; won at Washington; won at Chicago.
Do you realize Ray Allen is only hitting 33% of his threes this season? Once he gets back up to his normal 39-40 percent, the C’s become that much more dangerous.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (18-4)
Last week: Beat Utah, beat Minnesota, lost at Utah.
Maybe Kobe decided his next challenge was to see if he can win a championship and lead the League in scoring playing only with his left hand and doing most of his work in the paint. Of course, with Kobe banged up, this would be a perfect time to get Pau Gasol those extra shots he’s looking for.