|NBA Power Rankings, 10/28||10.28.10 at 2:40 pm ET|
1. LA Lakers: After receiving their championship rings, the Lakers started 1-0, thanks to new addition Steve Blake, who nailed a last-second 3-pointer to defeat the Rockets — on an assist from Kobe Bryant. Wait a second, Kobe trusted a teammate? And a new teammate to boot? I must have read that wrong.
2. Boston: The Celtics made their statement on opening night: When they’re up for a game, they can beat anybody in the league, including the LeBron-led Heat. Then they made another statement last night: When they’re not up for a game, they can lose to anybody in the league, including the LeBron-less Cavaliers.
3. Miami: LeBron was right when he said after the loss to the Celtics that Rome wasn’t built in a day. In reality, it was built over the course of 870 years. I don’t think it’ll take that long for the Heat to start jelling. They played pretty poorly in the opener — and still almost beat our No. 2-ranked team on the road.
4. Oklahoma City: Kevin Durant took his first step towards claiming his MVP trophy, totaling 30 points and seven rebounds in a season-opening win over a team that will probably be one of the league’s best defensive squads (the Bulls). So, what’s in store when he plays against the Pistons tomorrow night? Watch out.
5. Orlando: I overheard a conversation at the TD Garden the other night. One guy said to another, “Hey, how come you don’t like Orlando’s chances this year?” The other guy’s reply? “They still have Vince Carter, don’t they?” I couldn’t agree more. That’s why — no matter how impressive their preseason was — they’re not higher.
6. Dallas: Thanks to Dirk Nowitzki (28 points, 13 boards) and Jason Kidd (18 assists), the Mavericks looked pretty sharp in their season opener. Then again, they played the Bobcats. By the way, Dirk is awesome on Twitter, contemplating a mullet.
7. Portland: The Trail Blazers are the only 2-0 team in the league. That’s gotta count for something, right? A healthy Brandon Roy has been a stud so far, and Nicolas Batum looks like he could be a big-time, under-the-radar contributor to this team.
8. San Antonio: I thought it was strange that such a veteran team was planning on picking up the pace offensively this season, but the Spurs scored 122 points in their opener. Their Big 3 — Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker — each scored 20 points. Even Richard Jefferson had a good game. Maybe Gregg Popovich is on to something.
9. Utah: So, the Jazz finished the preseason 8-0, and then lose their season opener. Al Jefferson claimed the pick-and-roll offense fits his game perfectly, and then he goes out and scored six points. Not exactly Carlos Boozer or Karl Malone, yet.
10. Chicago: I never thought Joakim Noah would be this good. I just thought his act wouldn’t fly in the NBA, and I thought his shot was too ugly. Think again. Carlos Boozer said he was going to “work his butt off” to get back into the Bulls’ lineup. When he does, watch out. This team will climb these rankings — quickly.
11. Atlanta: Zaza Pachulia has had to close two restaurants in his hometown because they were “losing a tremendous amount of money.” He may be a poor restauranteur, but he’s a pretty good role player — totaling 17 points and 11 boards in his first game off the bench. Plus, it’s fun to say his name.
12. New York: The Knicks may have violated NBA rules by working out college players in secret back in 2007. Back then, I don’t think it mattered how much cheating they did; they were terrible regardless. Now? It’s a different story. This team’s going to be solid, even if they are cheating.
13. Denver: Carmelo Anthony made a statement in his team’s opening-night victory against the Jazz: As long as he’s in Denver, he’ll still be playing hard. And, for now, the front office has surrounded him with a talented group, including two guys I didn’t expect to have much talent — Aaron Afflalo and Nene Hilario.
14. Milwaukee: Brandon Jennings picked up where he left off at the end of last season — missing the large majority of his shots. Also, I’m growing increasingly skeptical of John Salmons. I think he’s the kind of guy you want playing for a contract, rather than playing out a five-year, $40 million one.
15. Houston: The Rockets have given up 244 points in two games. That has spelled an 0-2 start and could spell disaster for this team. Luis Scola can put together 36-point, 16-rebound games all he wants, but if he doesn’t play defense it’s gonna get ugly.
16. Memphis: I never thought I’d say this, but just wait until this team gets Marc Gasol back. With him sitting and a hobbled Zach Randolph (back), the Grizzlies still gave the Hawks a battle in their opener.
19. Phoenix: I had this team ranked way too high. How did the Suns make the Western Conference finals last year, even with Amar’e Stoudemire? They have nobody past Steve Nash and Jason Richardson — and even those guys might be past their primes.
23. Indiana: Despite their season-opening loss to the Spurs, I still think the Pacers will contend for an Eastern Conference playoff spot this year. If they can get the kind of production they got out of Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison, they’ll compete against most teams.
28. Cleveland: I’m big enough to admit when I’m wrong. The Cavaliers aren’t the second-worst team in the league. They’re the third-worst. Sure, they can get up for a game against the Celtics on opening night, but the reality of a starting lineup that includes Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon will smack them in the face soon.
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