Ranking the NBA from worst to first…
30. New Jersey Nets (2-26)
Last week: Lost at Cleveland; lost to Utah; lost at Toronto; lost to L.A. Lakers.
This is not good for Rafer Alston. He’s 33 years old, shooting 34 percent from the field, and becoming a forgotten man in a contract year. And playing with this team, Skip is liable to age another four years before July 1.
29. Golden State Warriors (7-19)
Last week: Lost at Philadelphia; lost to San Antonio; lost to Washington.
Steph Curry and Anthony Randolph are like the young stripper in a gold-digging marriage with the dirty geezer. Just keep your eyes on the prize, do what the old man says, and soon enough, the keys to the mansion will be yours.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-22)
Last week: Won at Utah; lost to L.A. Clippers; beat Sacramento; lost at Boston.
Any other year, Jonny Flynn would be right in the middle of the Rookie of the Year discussion. But given what’s happening in Sacramento and Milwaukee, Flynn’s 14.2 ppg and 4.1 apg won’t be good enough.
27. Indiana Pacers (9-17)
Last week: Lost at Orlando; beat Charlotte; lost at Memphis; lost at San Antonio; lost to Milwaukee.
Danny Granger appeared on last week’s episode of “For the Love of Ray J,” helping the girls complete a sports challenge. It must have been unfamiliar for him, being surrounded by so much talent on a basketball court.
26. Philadelphia 76ers (7-20)
Last week: Beat Golden State; lost to Cleveland; won at Boston; lost to L.A. Clippers.
Good timing for Elton Brand. In danger of losing a lot of minutes with Marreese Speights’ return from injury, Brand puts up 23 and 8 on the Celtics and gets the game-winning putback.
25. Washington Wizards (8-17)
Last week: Lost at L.A. Clippers; lost at Sacramento; won at Golden State; lost at Phoenix.
Reader comment of the week from UselessNinja: “All I want to say is, I watched the Wiz/Warriors game last night and maybe it’s just me, but DeShawn Stevenson plays ball like a drug dealer who hasn’t been on the court since he quit the team in high school…dude wasn’t even trying half the time.”
24. Charlotte Bobcats (10-16)
Last week: Beat New York; lost at Indiana; lost to Utah; lost at New York.
Everybody knows Larry Brown doesn’t like to play rookies, but what does he have to lose by getting Gerald Henderson (9 mpg) some more burn? Is Stephen Graham that much better than Henderson, or is this some UNC/Duke thing?
23. New York Knicks (10-17)
Last week: Lost at Charlotte; lost at Chicago; beat L.A. Clippers; beat Charlotte.
It’s fun to imagine what kind of terrible contracts Isiah Thomas would have been able to bring to NY in a Nate Robinson trade. Isn’t Keith Van Horn still on somebody’s payroll somewhere?
22. Chicago Bulls (10-16)
Last week: Lost to L.A. Lakers, beat New York, beat Atlanta; lost to Sacramento.
Blowing a 35-point lead in 20 minutes of game time? That’s not gangsta. That’s VERY not gangsta.
21. Toronto Raptors (12-17)
Last week: Lost at Miami; lost at Orlando; beat New Jersey; beat New Orleans.
He’s still not scoring a lot (7.7. ppg), but DeMar DeRozan is starting to become a fixture on the nightly highlight reel with his dunks.
20. Detroit Pistons (11-16)
Last week: Lost at Houston; lost at New Orleans; lost at Oklahoma City; lost to L.A. Lakers.
Followed a five-game win streak with a four-game skid. With the Bobcats, Raptors (twice), Knicks and Bulls on the slate to close out thee calendar year, another good run could be in the cards.
19. Los Angeles Clippers (12-15)
Last week: Beat Washington; won at Minnesota; lost at New York; won at Philadelphia; lost at San Antonio.
E-mail from Dime’s Austin Burton: “My girl’s sister saw Dime #49 with Blake Griffin on the cover and goes, ‘Oh, Blake Griffin, I like him. He’s the concussion guy.’ For the sake of Clippers fans, let’s hope that isn’t Blake’s enduring legacy.”
18. Memphis Grizzlies (12-15)
Last week: Lost to Boston; lost at Atlanta; beat Indiana; beat Denver.
Here’s a crazy idea: Chris Wallace really does know what he’s doing. The much-maligned GM has put together a young nucleus through the draft and with trades, he picked up a 20-and-10 staple in Zach Randolph in the offseason, and he nipped the Allen Iverson experiment in the bud before it became an all-out disaster. If the Grizzlies finish anywhere near .500, does Wallace get consideration for Executive of the Year?
17. Milwaukee Bucks (12-14)
Last week: Lost to L.A. Lakers; lost at Cleveland; lost to Sacramento; won at Indiana.
On his way to dumping 31 points, 18 boards and three blocks on the Pacers, Andrew Bogut was described by Quinn Buckner as a tough matchup because, “He’s a right-hander who plays like a lefty.” We thought it’s because Bogut is an ornery bastard on the court who would leave Roy Hibbert quivering in a dark alley, but whatever’s clever.
16. Sacramento Kings (13-14)
Last week: Lost at Portland; beat Washington; lost at Minnesota; won at Milwaukee; won at Chicago.
Consider Tyreke Evans the clubhouse leader for Rookie of the Year. He beat Brandon Jennings in their first head-to-head and scored the game-winner by pulling a pro’s move on Bogut, a couple days after getting the best of Gilbert Arenas in crunch time. Then he led the charge in the Kings’ historic comeback win over the Bulls.
15. Oklahoma City Thunder (14-13)
Last week: Lost at Denver; lost to Dallas; beat Detroit; lost at Houston
In his last three games, Kevin Durant is shooting 17-of-53 from the field (32 percent). It won’t be easy to get back in rhythm with Ron Artest on the schedule Tuesday night.
14. New Orleans Hornets (12-14)
Last week: Lost at Dallas; beat Detroit; beat Denver; lost at Toronto.
In the process of beating the Nuggets pretty much by himself, Chris Paul came one assist and one rebound shy of being only the third player to record a 30-10-20 triple-double. He would have joined Magic Johnson and Fat Lever.
13. Miami Heat (13-12)
Last week: Beat Toronto; beat Orlando; lost to Portland.
Responded to their rock-bottom moment (blowout loss to Memphis) by cracking the Raps and Magic, then fell under Brandon Roy’s clutch shooting late against the Blazers. Still moving in the right direction.
12. San Antonio Spurs (15-10)
Last week: Lost at Phoenix; won at Golden State; beat Indiana; beat L.A. Clippers.
In three games last week, Tim Duncan put up 34-14 on the Suns, 27-15 on the Warriors, and beat the Pacers with a putback dunk with four seconds left.
11. Houston Rockets (16-11)
Last week: Beat Detroit; lost at Denver; won at Dallas; beat Oklahoma City.
T-Mac is back, but only logging seven and eight-minute stints each night. Offensively he’s still got the skills, but he’s suffering on defense and with his conditioning.
10. Portland Trail Blazers (17-12)
Last week: Beat Sacramento; beat Phoenix; lost at Orlando; won at Miami.
Against a team with exactly one tough interior presence, LaMarcus Aldridge’s three points in 31 minutes against Orlando is unacceptable.
9. Utah Jazz (16-12)
Last week: Lost to Minnesota; won at New Jersey; lost at Atlanta; won at Charlotte; lost at Orlando.
Matt Harpring being added to the NBA TV studio leaves us with the same question we had with Eric Snow and the Cavs last year: If the Jazz win a championship, does national TV analyst Harpring get a ring since he’s technically still on the roster and the payroll?
8. Phoenix Suns (18-10)
Last week: Beat San Antonio; lost at Portland; beat Washington; lost to Cleveland.
How did Channing Frye go from a rookie being compared to a poor man’s Tim Duncan, to a guy who could very well end up in the Three-Point Shootout at All-Star Weekend?
7. Denver Nuggets (19-9)
Last week: Beat Oklahoma City; beat Houston; lost at New Orleans; lost at Memphis.
Lost two straight without Chauncey Billups (groin) in the lineup. But at least Ty Lawson got some good experience in the process, including a 30-point, 19-dime evisceration courtesy Chris Paul.
6. Orlando Magic (21-7)
Last week: Beat Indiana; beat Toronto; lost at Miami; beat Portland; beat Utah.
Tough week with Utah, Houston and Boston on the schedule, all at home. Jameer Nelson is back in the lineup in a limited role, which will be crucial against Deron Williams, Aaron Brooks and Rajon Rondo.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers (21-8)
Last week: Beat New Jersey; won at Philadelphia; beat Milwaukee; lost at Dallas; won at Phoenix.
Still trying to figure out if Shaq (10.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg) is pacing himself for the playoffs, or if he’s just done.
4. Dallas Mavericks (20-8)
Last week: Beat New Orleans; won at Oklahoma City; lost to Houston; beat Cleveland.
J.J. Barea dropped 23 points on the Hornets and another 23 on the Rockets last week. If he continues to produce like that and Dirk keeps his elbows out of other people’s mouths, the Mavs are a scary, scary team to see in the playoffs.
3. Boston Celtics (21-5)
Last week: Won at Memphis; lost to Philadelphia; beat Minnesota.
Kevin Garnett may be the only rich person in America to wake up Christmas morning with a scowl on his face. KG is still seething from Boston’s playoff loss to Orlando, and then the C’s lost to the Magic in their first meeting this season. Now he’s getting the Magic on Dec. 25, having to spend Christmas Eve on the road away from his family, and Boston is trying to protect its spot as maybe the best team in the East … we sense an altercation and lots of dirty words.
2. Atlanta Hawks (19-7)
Last week: Beat Memphis; beat Utah; lost at Chicago.
Is Al Horford an All-Star? There’s room for one center in the East behind Dwight Howard, and Horford (13.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg) has been as good as anybody.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (22-4)
Last week: Won at Chicago; won at Milwaukee; won at New Jersey; won at Detroit.
In a recent interview with Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant said he truly believes Pau Gasol is the best post player in the game today. Of course Kobe is supposed to say that about his teammate, but Tim Duncan might have a rebuttal argument. At the same time, the way Pau has been playing lately, it’s not entirely off-base. Three times in the last six games he’s pulled down at least 20 boards.