|NBA Power Rankings, 3/25||03.25.10 at 9:28 am ET|
1. Cleveland: I wish the Cavs had put a little more entertainment into the Zydrunas Ilgauskas sham. Hell, we all knew he was returning the day he was traded to Washington. At least make us halfway think there was a chance he wouldn’t come back. As for LeBron, there’s not much drama there, either: For the second consecutive year, the MVP trophy is his. No need to tally the votes — just give it to him.
2. LA Lakers: All right, I’ll admit it: I’ve had two completely different LA things on my mind all week: 1. This team has the ability to play some really beautiful and efficient basketball. If you’re guarding the Lakers, getting them to miss a shot is not necessarily a win because they’re so good on the boards. 2. Is there really a Khloe Kardashian sex tape? I have to know. I just have to.
3. Orlando: Is it just plain crazy, from a Celtics perspective, not to be worried about Dwight Howard and Vince Carter? Call me crazy. For Boston, I’m more anxious about how the Magic will perform in the playoffs with a (nearly) full season of Jameer Nelson and a bench guy like Matt Barnes.
4. Utah: Jerry Sloan made contact with an official the other night. I’m shocked that it doesn’t happen more often. Talk to any old-timer and they’ll tell you that when Sloan played, he was half basketball player, half linebacker. I was shocked when I learned that he doesn’t lead all coaches in technicals (mild-mannered Alvin Gentry of Phoenix does).
5. Dallas: If I lived in Dallas, I don’t think I’d find many complaints with a guy like Mark Cuban. He built the best arena in the league, he could give a damn about the luxury tax, and he’s not afraid to make bold moves to improve the team. Really, what else can a sports fan ask for?
7. Atlanta: Everyone talks about how the Hawks are a bad matchup for the Celtics. I don’t buy it. If they see each other in the playoffs, watch how Rajon Rondo dominates the series. Joe Johnson is not a good matchup for the C’s, but the Hawks have no one who can slow down Rondo.
8. Boston: Usually we blame an owner or GM or coach for a personnel move that goes awry, but can an entire ORGANIZATION be wrong on a player? The Celtics sent everyone — ownership, management, coaches and players — to Michigan during the summer to recruit Rasheed. Did anyone see a red flag? I’m not gonna kill the C’s on this yet (I was for the signing), but if Sheed doesn’t show something in the playoffs, you’d have to call the recruiting an utter waste of millions of dollars … not to mention a waste of a perfect summer day.
9. Phoenix: As far as dunk ratings go, Amar’e Stoudemire’s the other night was about an 11. Truly off-the-charts stuff. It’s too bad this team won’t hang around long in the playoffs, because the Suns are fun to watch.
10. Oklahoma City: Perspective on the greatness and youth of 21-year-old Kevin Durant: If he had stayed in college, he’d be a senior right now at the University of Texas … and completely obliterating every NCAA tournament record imaginable.
11. Portland: Okay, Lakers. Get ready to experience what we have the last two years in Boston: a first-round series that goes to Game 7. The Lakers will likely make it back to the Finals, but it’s teams like the Blazers who will make sure they’re battered once they get there.
13. Milwaukee: If it’s a one-on-one game between the Scotts, my money’s on Skiles. But in Coach of the Year voting, Skiles is going to lose out to Brooks. It’s been an incredible run for the Bucks who, remember, appeared to be tanking when they handed Richard Jefferson to the Spurs in the offseason.
14. Memphis: Nice young team, nice story. But you know what? Pro basketball just isn’t a fit in Memphis. I don’t know where the Grizzlies would go next after already moving from Vancouver, but Memphis isn’t it.
15. Charlotte: We’ve all had our fun talking about the failings of Michael Jordan, executive (for some people, it’s payback for being torched by Michael Jordan, icon), but owning the ‘Cats is a major coup. Just think of the contrast: Former Celtic Antoine Walker was foolish enough to gamble with MJ back in the day, and the only things that Walker now owns are debt-ridden properties.
16. Miami: The Celtics should have no interest in seeing this team in the first round of the playoffs. I’d rather face the Bucks, honestly. I always get a pit in my stomach when I think of facing Top 5 players in playoff situations. Can’t you just see Dwyane Wade averaging 40 in a series?
17. Toronto: While Chris Bosh doesn’t have to prove to anybody that he’s a skilled player, I’d like to see if he has the ability to strap this team to his back and stop them from sliding out of the playoffs.
18. Houston: Sorry, but I’m loyal to my under-the-radar favorites. I just can’t get over the fact that they traded the rugged Carl Landry.
19. New Orleans: All right, I’m the owner of the Hornets. I’m interviewing you for the GM’s job. Tell me, what do you do about the Chris Paul/Darren Collison point guard log jam? (Would you really trade Chris Paul? Really?)
20. Chicago: Look, I ALWAYS think it’s good for young teams to make the playoffs, even if it means scraping and grinding your way to an eighth spot. So it will be impressive if the Bulls can find a way after all the injuries they’ve had the last six weeks. But with that said, they’ll get in and be promptly swept away by the Cavaliers.
22. New York: Two more reasons LeBron is unlikely to land here: 1. Do you realize that they don’t own their first-rounder? They sent it to Utah a while ago and now it’s unprotected. So one of the best teams in the league will have a Knicks lottery pick. 2. When they do have high draft picks, they blow them. They passed on Brandon Jennings last year and he went to Milwaukee two spots later.
24. LA Clippers: For those who want to update your files, this now marks the 12th time in the last 13 seasons that the Clippers won’t make the playoffs. So when people like me want to call the Bruins’ Jeremy Jacobs one of the worst owners in pro sports, we should always remember that the Clippers and Donald Sterling represent the baseline.
25. Golden State: This is how bad the Warriors are: Don Nelson is just four wins away from having the most victories of any coach in history (I can’t believe it, either), yet there’s a really good chance he won’t get there until next season.
27. Detroit: Just curious: If you could have your dream job, dream car (s), dream house and dream private jet/boat, with the only stipulation being that you had to spend 90 percent of your time in Detroit, would you take the deal? I’d really have to sleep on that one…for a long, long time.
28. Washington: D.C. prosecutors want Gilbert Arenas to do time behind bars? That’s not only an abuse of taxpayer money, but it’s an abuse of what the penal system is supposed to be. The guy is a knucklehead who I’d never want on my team but, my God, let’s be smart about an appropriate punishment.
30. New Jersey: How dare these guys interfere with history? We all needed to be able to say we were there when a team broke the NBA’s record for being lousy. The Nets still need two wins — 25 percent of their season total — to avoid the All-Time Loser crown, and for some reason I think they’ll get ‘em. Bastards.