If the All-Star break has come and gone, the rodeo’s left town and Brent Barry’s been told he’s traded (this time for real), then the San Antonio Spurs must be making their annual springtime march up the NBA standings.
The Spurs have traditionally saved their best for last, and this season seems no different. Manu Ginobili’s never played better, Tim Duncan’s 20-and-10 steady and Tony Parker appears to have regained some of his heath. Barry’s even coming back after he completes his month-long sabbatical.
Add it up and San Antonio has ridden a nine-game winning streak to the top of this week’s Powerless Rankings. As is typically the case out West, the Spurs will be taxed to keep their hold on No. 1: Games in Denver and Phoenix await this weekend.
Rankings are judged on games from Tuesday through Monday. Previous standing for each team follows current ranking.
- 1. (2) San Antonio Spurs – Is this the first season Manu Ginobili gets more MVP votes than Tim Duncan?
- 2. (8) Boston Celtics – Ominous sign for East: After watching KG go for 20 points and 16 boards Sunday against Atlanta, Paul Pierce declared, “He’s all the way back.”
- 3. (3) Houston Rockets – We promised not to penalize the Rockets for Yao Ming’s absence until they lost and we didn’t.
- 4. (1) Los Angeles Lakers – What was more disappointing: End of 10-game win streak Friday in Portland? Or that many of Kobe Bryant’s teammates looked rattled under the bright lights of Sunday’s victory over Dallas?
- 5. (4) Detroit Pistons – Meltdown in Utah prevented sweep of four-game West trip, but there was a positive: It likely sharpened Pistons’ focus for Wednesday’s date in Boston.
6. (9) New Orleans Hornets – Inexperienced or not, Hornets claim to have no fear of playoffs. As long as someone promises them they don’t have to face Washington in the NBA Finals.
- 7. (5)Utah Jazz– Jazz looked as tough as anyone in beating Detroit and Dallas. Almost as impressive: They picked up a real, live road win in Memphis.
- 8. (6) Dallas Mavericks – Maybe Jason Kidd isn’t a miracle worker after all. One night after turning Erick Dampier into a 16-point, 17-board force, Kidd watched the Mavs center go for six and five.
9. (7) Phoenix Suns – Suns insist they need more time to get acquainted with Shaquille O’Neal. They might be in luck: Judging from last week’s performance, they could have the whole summer free.
10. (11) Golden State Warriors – To qualify for the playoffs, coach Don Nelson thinks it will take “49, 50” wins and 72, 73 Bud Lights.
11. (10) Orlando Magic – Coach Stan Van Gundy urging more toughness from Magic, but softness of team’s schedule could also help: Only four of 14 games this month are against teams with winning records.
12. (12) Cleveland Cavaliers – LeBron James became youngest player to reach 10,000 points for his career and now trails Brad Daugherty by 315 for Cavs all-time scoring record. As soon as James breaks mark, Daugherty will present him with a commemorative restrictor plate.
13. (13) Denver Nuggets – Reacting to Sunday’s 14-point loss in Houston to Yao-less Rockets, Carmelo Anthony said, “I’m not concerned.” Perhaps he should be. Denver now gets to face Phoenix, San Antonio, Utah and San Antonio (again) over next four games.
14. (14) Toronto Raptors – Not-so-fun times for Raptors. They’ve got a Tuesday visit with Dwight Howard in Orlando and Chris Bosh is out with a right knee injury for most of the week. Not all is lost, however: Bosh can still get you a deal on a used car in Dallas.
15. (15) Portland Trail Blazers – Darius Miles says he’s ready to play, Blazers say he isn’t, all of which raises a question: Darius Miles is still a Blazer?
16. (16) Philadelphia 76ers – Sixers already have written one comeback story with Mo Cheeks getting extension to return next season. Qualifying for the playoffs for first time since 2005 would be another.
17. (19) Washington Wizards – Gilbert Arenas said team doctors have cleared him to return to “full speed,” but that he’s going to “take it slow.” More promising news: Wizards have already picked up pace without him and Caron Butler, winning four of past five.
18. (18) New Jersey Nets – Nets visit Jason Kidd on Saturday for first time since he was traded to Dallas. Hopefully they’ll remember to bring his migraine medicine.
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19. (21) Atlanta Hawks – Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week that Hawks owners blocked GM Billy Knight from firing coach Mike Woodson. Sounds like at least one person will be registering with Monster.com this summer.
20. (17) Sacramento Kings – According to the Sacramento Bee, Kings coach Reggie Theus fined Ron Artest $5,000 for publicly questioning whether the coaching staff wanted to win as much as him. Theus also reportedly fined Mikki Moore $5,000 for complaining about his limited role in team’s offense. Apparently the going rate for free speech at Arco Arena these days is, you guessed it, $5,000.
21. (24) Indiana Pacers – Said Pacers president Larry Bird: “…We’ve got to be very clear on this: We don’t want our players hanging around with murderers.” Team’s newest code-of-conduct addition follows earlier don’t-punch-fans-in-stands and don’t-fire-gun-in-strip-club-parking-lot edicts.
22. (22) Chicago Bulls – Upon returning to Cleveland for first time since he was traded to Chicago, Larry Hughes told reporters “I play to enjoy myself.” Unfortunately for Hughes, not too many other people in Cleveland seemed to be enjoying themselves when he played.
23. (20) Milwaukee Bucks – Bucks have wins over Detroit, Denver, Cleveland and a near-miss against San Antonio since All-Star break. Does that mean they’re now overachieving? Or have simply underachieved to this point?
24. (23) Los Angeles Clippers – Clippers hit new low: Flip Murray reneges on offer to sign with them.
- 25. (25) Seattle SuperSonics– Sonics left Saturday for seven-game, 13-day trip. They’re scheduled to return to Seattle on March 13, provided Oklahoma City still needs a little more time to finish its arena renovations.
- 26. (27) New York Knicks – Amid reports the Knicks ordered Stephon Marbury to stay away from Madison Square Garden, Isiah Thomas claimed the injured point guard is expected at future games. No word yet whether Thomas plans to immediately play Marbury 33 minutes.
- 27. (28) Charlotte Bobcats – Where does the Primoz Brezec-Sam Vincent feud rank on the NBA’s controversy meter? Above the Kareem Rush-Bernie Bickerstaff tiff? Below? Anyone paying attention?
- 28. (29) Miami Heat – According to the Palm Beach Post, Pat Riley isn’t worried about his hard-nosed approach scaring off potential free agents. Still, just to be safe he’s considering cutting back his daily practice time from four hours to 3½.
- 29. (26) Minnesota Timberwolves – Timberwolves lost narrow OT game to Seattle on Sunday, but at this point is either team counting anything other than ping-pong balls?
- 30. (30) Memphis Grizzlies – Memphis has just one win in past 15 games, but not all news is bad. ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy called the Grizzlies one of this season’s top MVP candidates – for helping build the Lakers into a contender.
- San Antonio