So how are the San Antonio Spurs, winners of 10 straight, doing lately without Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and coach Gregg Popovich?
For one, guard Tony Parker has been playing at an MVP level. No one is playing better defense than San Antonio. And a lengthy stretch against teams with losing records doesn‘t hurt either. Because of all that, the Spurs return atop Yahoo! Sports' NBA rankings for the second straight week.
Records are through Monday.
San Antonio Spurs (38-11, previous ranking: first): Should the Spurs rest Duncan (knee, ankle) through the All-Star break? Considering Duncan’s importance to what could be the last title run of this Spurs era, it might not be a bad move. But David Stern is watching.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
(36-12, previous ranking: second): Kevin Durant
has gone from having a good-guy reputation to drawing his ninth technical foul of the season in Monday’s win against Dallas. An edgier Durant is a good thing for Oklahoma City.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
(34-16, previous ranking: third): So if Chris Paul’s knee injury keeps him from representing the West in the All-Star game, should Stern go with Clippers guard Jamal Crawford
or Golden State guard Stephen Curry as a replacement?
4. Miami Heat
(31-14, previous ranking: fourth): The Heat have three interesting home games coming up with James Harden
, Jeremy Lin and the Rockets on Wednesday, the Clippers on Friday, and Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard
and the Lakers on Sunday.
5. New York Knicks
(31-15, previous ranking: sixth): The Heat still have the East’s top record. But the Knicks are back on their feet, thanks to the return of point guard Raymond Felton
and a lift from the steady improvement of forward Amar’e Stoudemire.
[Also: Happy one-year anniversary, 'Linsanity' (video)]
6. Memphis Grizzlies
(30-16, previous ranking: fifth): The Grizzlies’ brass didn’t believe that swingman Rudy Gay fit in their half-court offense and think they landed steals in veteran Tayshaun Prince
and intriguing but unproven Ed Davis, while also saving money.
7. Golden State Warriors
(30-17, previous ranking: eighth): The Warriors have won four straight games and added size, rebounding, shot-blocking and post scoring with the return of Andrew Bogut
. The Aussie will be able to play in back-to-backs after All-Star weekend.
8. Denver Nuggets
(30-18, previous ranking: ninth): The Nuggets are not under pressure to make any trades to save money before the deadline. Denver is still getting a lot of calls about center Timofey Mozgov, but will only trade him for a too-good-to-be-true offer.
9. Indiana Pacers
(29-19, previous ranking: 10th): The Pacers could have forward Danny Granger
back from injury before the All-Star Break. The dynamics have changed since Granger was hurt as Paul George is an All-Star and the new face the franchise.
10. Chicago Bulls
(29-19, previous ranking: seventh): It is possible the Bulls could finish the season with Derrick Rose
and the East’s top seed. Chicago is just 3½ games behind the Heat, but probably needs Rose back by mid-March for such a charge.
11. Brooklyn Nets
(28-19, previous ranking: 11th): The Nets host the Lakers in Brooklyn for the first time Tuesday. If Lakers center Dwight Howard plays, the spotlight will be on how fellow All-Star center Brook Lopez of the Nets fares against him.
12. Utah Jazz
(27-22, previous ranking: 14th): The Jazz are hanging in there without injured players Mo Williams and Gordon Hayward
and have won seven of their last 10. Utah is fighting to stay in the playoff mix without two of its most valuable players.
13. Atlanta Hawks
(26-20, previous ranking: 12th): There is still strong speculation that forward Josh Smith will be dealt by new general manager Danny Ferry. The big question is to whom? Intrigued teams have been keeping their business very quiet.
[Also: NBA super-fan Jim Goldstein is immediate Twitter must-follow]
14. Milwaukee Bucks
(25-21, previous ranking: 13th): It's surprising that Bucks guard Brandon Jennings
fired agent Bill Duffy. Duffy appeared to have a father-son type of relationship with Jennings. But business is business.
15. Houston Rockets
(26-23, previous ranking: 15th): Two of the NBA’s top scorers battle when James Harden faces Miami’s LeBron James
on Wednesday. This is also Harden’s first trip back to Miami since he struggled with Oklahoma City during the 2012 Finals.
16. Portland Trail Blazers
(25-23, previous ranking: 16th): Rookies and second-year players will be selected Thursday by coaches Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal for the Rising Stars Challenge. After the Cavs' Kyrie Irving
, will Damian Lillard be taken second?
17. Boston Celtics
(24-23, previous ranking: 17th): A knee surgery date still has not been determined for All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo, who is could seek the opinion of as many as three doctors.
18. Los Angeles Lakers
(22-26, previous ranking: 18th): Dwight Howard is a game-time decision for Tuesday’s game at Brooklyn. Had Howard not opted for the final year of his contract, he could have signed with the Nets as a free agent last summer.
Philadelphia 76ers (21-26, previous ranking: 20th): The good news: The Sixers are starting to turn it around after winning three straight. The bad news: Starting forward Thaddeus Young is scheduled to have an MRI on his left hamstring Tuesday.
20. Dallas Mavericks
(20-28, previous ranking: 19th): While the Lakers are picking up steam to get back in the playoff picture, the Mavericks are going in the opposite direction. It could be tough for struggling Dallas to market itself as a free-agent destination.
21. Minnesota Timberwolves
(18-27, previous ranking: 21st): The announcement of the All-Star reserves was a tough day for injured forward Kevin Love, who badly wanted to make the West All-Star team.
[Also: Video: Lakers should avoid Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard trades]
22. Detroit Pistons
(18-31, previous ranking: 22nd): It is odd the Pistons would put two point guards in the starting lineup together in newcomer Jose Calderon and Brandon Knight. Calderon looked impressive in his debut with 15 points against New York.
Sacramento Kings (17-33, previous ranking: 24th): In this week’s weak moment with DeMarcus Cousins, he was thrown out of Monday’s game at Utah at halftime for calling a referee a derogatory name.
24. Toronto Raptors
(17-31, previous ranking: 23rd): A source close to new Raptors forward Rudy Gay said he was happy about leaving the Grizzlies. The Raptors’ up-tempo offense will be better suited for the fashionable Gay, as will living in metropolitan Toronto.
Phoenix Suns (16-32, previous ranking: 27th): Suns GM Lance Blanks has been spending time with Michael Beasley
off the court to aid his development. Blanks might need to get Beasley a driver, who was cited for a number of traffic violations in January.
26. New Orleans Hornets
(15-33, previous ranking: 26th): Rookie center Anthony Davis, the top pick in the 2013 NBA draft, averaged 11.1 points on 59.1 percent shooting in January but averaged just 8.3 shots per game. Sounds like Davis needs more touches.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers
(14-34, previous ranking: 28th): Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers have actually split their last 10 games. Cleveland also has some winnable home games coming up against possibly the NBA’s two worst teams: Charlotte and Orlando.
Orlando Magic (14-34, previous ranking: 25th): The Magic have dropped 10 straight and have not won since Jan. 16. Orlando hosts the injury-riddled Clippers on Wednesday and visits the Cavaliers on Friday in possible streak ending contests.
29. Washington Wizards
(12-35, previous ranking: 29th): This Wizards, with John Wall and Nene healthy, are not bad and kind of fun to watch. Hey, New Yorkers living in D.C., Washington plays host to New York on Wednesday and Brooklyn on Friday.
Charlotte Bobcats (11-36, previous ranking: 30th): The Bobcats are back to their losing ways again and have lost four straight. Wonder if Bobcats owner Michael Jordan will be sitting courtside Friday night when the Lakers come to Charlotte?
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