1. LA Lakers (8-0): Phil Jackson  said this Lakers team is not as good as the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls  team that won an NBA record 72 games because of defense. Still, they’re pretty darn good, or so says their league-leading unbeaten record and 12.5 point differential.
2. New Orleans (7-0): The Hornets have played the toughest schedule in the NBA and remain undefeated. I don’t think there’s anybody outside the New Orleans area that would’ve predicted that. But since Chris Paul  is back to his MVP form from three years ago, anything can happen.
Celtics  playing their way out of it. I came hardly blame the Celtics for a two-point loss to the Mavericks on the road. The health of the O’Neal Bros. could catch up to the C’s, but it hasn’t quite yet.
4. San Antonio (6-1): The Spurs just keep on winning. They’re reliable like that. They still have just one loss, and it’s to the Hornets. Believe it or not, Tim Duncan  is the fourth leading scorer in San Antonio, where their average of 106.7 points per game ranks fourth in the league.
5. Dallas (5-2): The Mavericks rank third in the Southwest Division but fifth overall. Talk about tough. Dirk Nowitzki  is still a top-1o player (top five?), and he said the Tyson Chandler /Brendan Haywood  center tandem is the best he’s seen in Dallas. Oh, and they’re actually playing defense.
6. Golden State (6-2): The Warriors are 4-0 at home, and one of their losses was to the Lakers on the road. OK, so they lost to Detroit. Games like that are bound to happen. You know you’ve got a good team when David Lee  is your fourth option offensively.
7. Utah (5-3): The Jazz  are coming off a pair of 20-point comeback wins against the Heat and Magic on the road. Not easy. In fact, the Florida sweep is probably the most impressive performance by any team all season. And can we just give Paul Millsap the comeback player of the year award now?
8. Orlando (5-2): I know the Magic lost to the Heat by 26 in Game 3, but that was Miami’s home opener, so you knew they’d be fired up. Since then, Orlando was 4-0 until losing to the Jazz. Still, after three more easy games this week, they’ll be 8-2 next time we come out with the power rankings.
9. Portland (6-3): The Trail Blazers’ three losses: in Chicago, vs. Oklahoma City in overtime and at the Lakers. And all three of those came during a brutal stretch of five games in seven days. Look for them to get revenge in Oklahoma City on Friday night.
10. Miami (5-3): The Heat are 1-3 against teams above .500. Joel Anthony  has scored 15 points in 145 minutes. Carlos Arroyo  has 16 assists in eight games. How far can Miami go playing 3-on-5 all season? Maybe we’ll find out Thursday night against the Celtics.
11. Atlanta (6-3): The Hawks have lost three straight, but they’ve only been out of one game. The biggest question entering the season was their competitiveness, but new coach Larry Drew appears to have them motivated.
12. Oklahoma City (4-3): How can a team with Kevin Durant  and Russell Westbrook  rank 16th in scoring? The Thunder can’t find their groove. Beat the Bulls, lose to the Jazz. Beat the Blazers, lose to the Celtics. It doesn’t get any easier, either, with Portland, San Antonio and Utah coming up.
13. Chicago (3-3): Joakim Noah  said anybody who talks trash to the Bulls will pay. So far, people must be keeping quiet, because Chicago hasn’t made too many teams pay. Are they just waiting for Carlos Boozer to return?
14. Indiana (3-3): That 20-for-20 stretch against the Nuggets was amazing. Any team that pulls that off has to have some talent. With Mike Dunleavy  back in the fold, this team is frisky.
George Karl .
16. Memphis (4-5): The Grizzlies ‘ worst loss came in Phoenix, in overtime, which isn’t bad. Playing in the NBA’s toughest division isn’t good for anyone’s record, but having six double-digit scorers can only help Memphis.
17. Phoenix (3-4): Hakim Warrick’s 12.3 points and 6.9 rebounds off the bench have been a nice surprise for the Suns. If only Robin Lopez could become 70 percent of his twin, then Phoenix would have something.
18. Milwaukee (4-5): A pair of 17-point victories against the Knicks  and Hawks seems to have the Bucks back on track. Their defense is there (4th in the NBA), but they don’t have anybody who can score on a consistent basis.
19. New York (3-5): If the Knicks played any defense at all, they’d be a top-10 team, but I guess you can’t expect that from a Mike D’Antoni team. Still, they only have one bad loss (76ers) and should beat up most weak teams.
Timberwolves  by nine at home on three days rest is awful. It’s even worse when it comes at the end of a three-game losing streak. This all means one thing: The Kings lack motivation.
21. Cleveland (4-4): How does this team have four wins? Are there really nine teams worse than the Cavs? How does Antawn Jamison  only average 9.6 points and 4.8 rebounds for this team? I have so many questions.
22. Washington (2-4): Only Magic Johnson  has come closer to a quadruple-double in his first six games than John Wall  did on Wednesday night. It’s too bad Wall doesn’t have the Showtime crew surrounding him.
23. Houston (1-6): The Rockets can’t be this bad, can they? They’re scoring 109 points a game — second-most in the league. What’s that you say? they give up 110.6 a game? Yup, that’ll do it. Still, they’ve played a brutal schedule. Things will get better. Trust me, Houston fans.
24. Minnesota (2-7): The T-Wolves played the Lakers tough in the Forum. That’s not easy to do. They’ve beaten the Kings and Bucks. I’m telling you: They’re not THAT bad, especially when Jonny Flynn returns next week.
the Nets  roster.
27. Charlotte (2-6): The Bobcats are terrible, so we might as well just make this the Stephen Jackson  Update: This week, he was fined $50,000 for verbally abusing the refs. Good times!
28. LA Clippers (1-8): Early injuries to Baron Davis  and Chris Kaman  have already tempered expectations. I think it would be far better for Clippers fans if there weren’t such high hopes entering each season.