Celtics replace Lakers atop rankings
By Johnny Ludden, Yahoo Sports
January 22, 2008
The Celtics reeled off wins over Portland, Philadelphia and New York, a solid-enough stretch – especially considering the iffy health of their lone point guard – to vault them above the rest of the contenders.
New Orleans made the week’s biggest jump. Riding a five-game winning streak, the Hornets soared from No. 7 to No. 2, and seem intent on making sure Byron Scott joins Chris Paul in New Orleans at the All-Star Game. Both deserve to play in front of a sold-out crowd at home at least once this season.
As usual no strength-of-schedule or point-differential stats were used (or harmed) in the making of these rankings, which are judged on games from Tuesday through Monday. Previous standing for each team follows current ranking.
3. (5) Phoenix Suns – Let’s get this straight: Steve Kerr and Mike D’Antoni reportedly are at odds; Amare Stoudemire is miffed over his shot count; Shawn Marion wants to be traded; Boris Diaw forgot how to play; Grant Hill just had an appendectomy; Steve Nash claims the Suns haven’t had “that same joy” as previous seasons; and Phoenix continues to lead the Western Conference? Maybe there’s still hope for the Knicks, after all.
4. (1) Los Angeles Lakers – Kwame Brown told teammates he was sorry for his seven-turnover performance against Phoenix on Thursday. To which Wizards fans shook their heads and said, “We never got an apology.”
5. (4) Dallas Mavericks – Swept by Washington for the first time in 11 seasons, the Mavericks retained this glass-half-full optimism: No matter what else happens, the Wizards can’t bounce them out of the first round of the playoffs.
6. (3) Detroit Pistons – With losses in four of their past five games, including three in a row, the Pistons have officially entered their wake-me-when-it’s-May stretch.
7. (6) San Antonio Spurs – If it’s late January and it smells like a barnyard around the AT&T Center, the rodeo must be coming to town. Either that or someone just caught a whiff of the Spurs’ road record.
8. (8) Portland Trail Blazers – Blazers center Joel Przybilla fouled Boston’s Paul Pierce last week only to incur the wrath of Kevin Garnett. Shouted Garnett: “I’ll chop his head off on the other end!” The NBA … where decapitation happens.
9. (10) Golden State Warriors – Not to say the Warriors were overlooking the Timberwolves or anything, but after spending the previous day at the Sundance Film Festival screening his new movie, Baron Davis showed up for the opening tip Monday with a Junior Mint stuck to his jersey.
10. (9) Denver Nuggets – Nuggets continue to ride Hard Luck Express. With Nene, Kenyon Martin, Eduardo Najera and Chucky Atkins all recently sidelined, Carmelo Anthony left Monday’s loss to the Lakers with what coach George Karl called a “substantial” ankle sprain.
12. (11)Utah Jazz– Jazz tied for fewest home losses in league while playing in arena named for radioactive waste management company. Home, it seems, is where the glowing heart is.
13. (12) Orlando Magic – Triple victory for Magic fans: Back-to-back wins over Portland and Detroit – the last of which ended with Rashard Lewis’ buzzer-beating heroics – and Dwight Howard’s decision to re-enter dunk contest.
14. (15) Washington Wizards – Wizards improved to 19-12 since losing Gilbert Arenas. If Arenas makes good on his vow and becomes a free agent at the end of the season, Washington might have to free up cap room to sign another blogger.
15. (16) Houston Rockets – Tracy McGrady returned from his 11-game absence and didn’t even complain about coming off the bench. Talk about a team player. Whatever it takes to help his trade value, he’s willing to do.
16. (14) Toronto Raptors – Losing in Philadelphia at end of a back-to-back is understandable except for the “losing in Philadelphia” part.
17. (20) Sacramento Kings – Not sure why everyone’s surprised at Kings’ success. Reggie Theus always seemed to have those Hang Time kids ready to play.
18. (19) Indiana Pacers – One day after saying his “prime option” would be to sit out the remainder of the season to rehab his ailing knee, Jermaine O’Neal downgraded any such decision as his “worst-case scenario.” In political terms this is called “covering your bases.”
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19. (21) Charlotte Bobcats – Despite recent improvement in their play, Bobcats still have 2-13 road record with 26 of final 41 games away from Charlotte. Maybe they should consider staying at Holiday Inn Express.
20. (17) New Jersey Nets – As the Nets prepared to begin six-game road trip out West, Jason Kidd said of team’s losing record: “That's who we are. We're the Nets. I can't sit here and explain to you and make something up. That's who we are. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as we know who we are. It's not a bad thing.” Shockingly, corporate demand for Jason Kidd motivational speeches has been less than enthusiastic.
21. (18) Atlanta Hawks – After losing to Portland on Travis Outlaw’s last-second shot, Joe Johnson declared, “Their bench outplayed our starting five, if you ask me.” In NBA terms that’s code for: “I just scored 37 points and we still lost our third consecutive game. Can someone give me a little help? Just a little?”
22. (23) Memphis Grizzlies – Memphis – Rudy Gay says 14-point win against Chicago showed Grizzlies just how good they can be. That’s a good thing, too, because 18-point loss in Charlotte two nights earlier showed the opposite.
24. (24) Chicago Bulls – Worried Joakim Noah was absorbing too much of a public flogging for his recent teammate-voted suspension, Jim Boylan rushed to the rookie’s defense by comparing him to a puppy. Noah’s new nickname? “Quibbles & Sits.”
27. (27) Los Angeles Clippers – Victories over Phoenix and New Jersey last week proved all is not lost. Unless, that is, the Clippers’ goal is to improve their lottery odds.
28. (29) Minnesota Timberwolves – Timberwolves beat Golden State Monday for first road victory since Nov. 26 and celebrated accordingly. As well they should. With old friend Kevin Garnett waiting for them in Boston on Friday, chances are feeling will be fleeting.
30. (30) Miami Heat – Pat Riley after last week’s 30-point home loss to Chicago: “The team didn't quit, it's just bad. …When you give up 126 points defensively at home and you've already lost 10 in a row, it's bad. I have now, tonight, at this moment, no answers for it.” In related news, seven different bookstores are selling copies of Riley’s The Winner Within for a single cent on Amazon.com.
Johnny Ludden is the NBA editor for Yahoo! Sports. Send Johnny a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Tuesday, Jan 22, 2008 4:54 pm, EST