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NBA Power Rankings, 11/25 11.25.10 at 3:18 pm ET
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pr_header1Obviously, we’re going to release a Thanksgiving Day version of the NBA Power Rankings, taking a look at what teams should be thankful for one-sixth of the way through the season. So, without further ado, here they are:

Los Angeles Lakers1. L.A. Lakers (13-2): The two-time defending champion Lakers can still be thankful for Memphis Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace for deciding to deliver Pau Gasol to them. Statistically, Gasol is the most efficient player in the NBA right now, cementing himself as the best big man in the league.

San Antonio Spurs2. San Antonio (13-1): The Spurs can be thankful that Richard Jefferson is still alive, Tony Parker has a renewed focus solely on basketball and Manu Ginobili is healthy. Surround those guys with the ever-productive Tim Duncan and a nice core of young talent, and you’ve got a championship-contending formula once again.

Boston Celtics3. Boston (11-4): The Celtics can be thankful that they didn’t land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft that turned into Greg Oden. As a result, the C’s decided to go another route, trading for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. As an aside, it’s a shame that Delonte West broke his wrist on Wednesday night; after overcoming some personal issues, he was truly embracing this season.

New Orleans Hornets4. New Orleans (11-3): The Hornets can be thankful Chris Paul hasn’t gone completely insane over their inability to surround him with enough talent to contend. I’m not sure how they’re doing it this season, but they’re winning with a group of guys that — outside of David West — aren’t exactly household names. You can’t argue with their success against a tough schedule.

Dallas Mavericks5. Dallas (10-4): The Mavericks can be thankful that Dirk Nowitzki was still available with the ninth pick in the 1998 NBA Draft and that their owner is a bazillionaire who is willing to spend money to surround him with the talent to win 50 games a season year in and year out. Read the rest of this entry »

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NBA Power Rankings, 11/4 11.04.10 at 4:45 pm ET
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Los Angeles Lakers1. LA Lakers (5-0): No Andrew Bynum? No problem. All the Lakers have done to begin their road to a third consecutive NBA championships is start 5-0 and beat opponents by an average of 13 points. The only bad news on their front is that Rick Fox got tossed from “Dancing with the Stars.”

Boston Celtics2. Boston (4-1): The Celtics’ 4-1 start — including victories against the playoff contending Heat, Knicks and Bucks — has proven that the Cleveland loss was only a fluke. Delonte West’s return from suspension in another five games will provide a much-needed boost.

Miami Heat3. Miami (4-1): The Heat are 4-0 since losing to the Celtics on opening night. It’s no surprise that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all scoring in the double digits for Miami, but James Jones’ 11.6 points per game has to be a welcome surprise for head coach Erik Spoelstra.

Atlanta Hawks4. Atlanta (5-0): Too high? Sure, they’ve only beaten the Grizzlies, 76ers, Wizards, Cavaliers and Pistons. But other than the Lakers they’re the only 5-0 team in the league. And they’ll probably head into Orlando on Monday night with a 7-0 record. Now that’s a must-watch game.

New Orleans Hornets5. New Orleans (4-0): I obviously don’t expect the Hornets to stay in the top five for too long, but it’s impossible to ignore what they’ve done so far: home victories against the Bucks and Nuggets, and road wins against the Spurs and Rockets. That’s four solid wins. A healthy Chris Paul David West once again give New Orleans a more-than-legit 1-2 punch.

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NBA Power Rankings, 10/28 10.28.10 at 2:40 pm ET
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Los Angeles Lakers1. 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.

Boston Celtics2. 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.

Miami Heat3. 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.

Oklahoma City Thunder4. 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.

Orlando Magic5. 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.

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NBA Power Rankings, 10/21 10.21.10 at 4:50 pm ET
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Los Angeles Lakers1. LA Lakers: So, Ron Artest was on Jimmy Kimmel Live last night. I knew he was crazy, but I guess I didn’t know he was that crazy. How long can he go without creating a distraction? It worked last year, but there’s a shelf life for these things. Still, they’re the two-time defending NBA champions, and they have ”length,” which doesn’t sound right, but size matters in this league.

Boston Celtics2. Boston: The Celtics finished the preseason with a 7-1 record, proving they can turn on the “all systems go” button, even when the games don’t matter. That’s a scary thought when wins and losses start to mean something. I’m a little skeptical about how the C’s will integrate Shaquille O’Neal on both ends of the court, but the depth on this team is the league’s best.

Miami Heat3. Miami: Injuries continue to pile up for the Heat: Dwyane Wade (hamstring), LeBron James (hamstring), Mike Miller (thumb), Mario Chalmers (ankle) and Eddie House (shoulder). The 2007-08 Celtics used the preseason to jell; this team will have to do it in the regular season. I’m being careful not to be a “hater” here, so Eddie House doesn’t flip me the bird.

Oklahoma City Thunder4. Oklahoma City: There are some interesting stories coming out about Jeff Green. He has a “special relationship” with his head coach, whatever that means. According to Etan Thomas, he’s an underappreciated player in the league. Just another one of the Thunder’s young guns.

Orlando Magic5. Orlando: Wait a second, it’s a contract year for Vince Carter? So, that’s why he’s trying again — and knocking down 61 percent of his shots (59 percent from 3-point range) this preseason. Combine a motivated Vince, a healthy Jameer Nelson and a Hakeem Olajuwon-inspired Dwight Howard, and you’ve got a recipe for success.

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NBA Power Rankings, 10/7 10.07.10 at 12:48 pm ET
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Los Angeles Lakers1. LA Lakers: As the long as the Lakers avoid terrorist threats in Europe and manage to stay healthy, they’ll hang on to this spot throughout the preseason. I’m not too worried about a loss to the T-Wolves or Kobe’s knee being 60 percent. And they’re pretty used to surviving without Bynum at this point.

Boston Celtics2. Boston: When your biggest question mark is whether Von Wafer or Mario West will fill the final spot on the roster, I’d say your team is in pretty good shape … as long as Nate Robinson doesn’t hurt Shaq with one of his pranks. Oh, and Semih Erden looks like he’ll actually contribute.

Miami Heat3. Miami: Don’t let D-Wade’s hamstring injury alarm you. Those things happen in the preseason, and he’s played through far worse. The Heat looked good. No surprise there. And if Udonis Haslem keeps contributing like he has, they just might slide up to No. 2 on opening night.

Oklahoma City Thunder4. Oklahoma City: The Thunder recently invited the greatest name in the NBA to their training camp: Longar Longar. If he makes the team, watch out league. What better complement to Durant, Westbrook and Green?

Dallas Mavericks5. Dallas: The Mavericks are a bunch of 30-somethings who have a limited window left to challenge for an NBA title. Sound familiar? Yup, they’re like the Celtics, only they don’t rebound much and play porous defense. Still, they’ll be tough out West.

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NBA Power Rankings, 3/25 03.25.10 at 9:28 am ET
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Cleveland Cavaliers1. 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.

Los Angeles Lakers2. 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.

Orlando Magic3. 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.

Utah Jazz4. 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).

Dallas Mavericks5. 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?

Denver Nuggets6. Denver: They might have made the Finals if they had been a little smarter last year. This year, there’s too much quality competition in the West. And the Kenyon Martin injury is huge.

Atlanta Hawks7. 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.

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NBA Power Rankings, 1/28 01.28.10 at 9:15 am ET
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Cleveland Cavaliers1. Cleveland (2): It’s surprising how well the Cavaliers have matched up with the Lakers this year. With or without Shaq in Cleveland’s lineup, I just didn’t think that they had the big men to deal with LA’s size. As for player-coach-mayor LeBron, I’ve seen him carry a worse team than this to the Finals … but he did it when the Eastern Conference was worse, too. After last year, regular-season dominance means nothing. Can this team be this good in late May and early June?

Los Angeles Lakers2. LA Lakers (1): What fickle person comes up with these rankings, anyway? Wasn’t it just last week that “it’s going to be hard for someone to knock them from this [No. 1] perch”? That someone was the Cavaliers, who swept the season series from the Lakers. (An aside, from the world of trashy TV: The fellas might think I’m crazy on this one, but do you know which Kardashian is really starting to grow on me? Khloe. Lamar Odom’s girl. Kim and Kourtney get all the hype, but … I’m just saying … never mind.)

Denver Nuggets3. Denver (5): What the Nuggets have done this year is amazing. They’ve won some games without Carmelo Anthony, they’ve won some games without Chauncey Billups, they’ve won some games without bench guy J.R. Smith. They were conference finalists last year, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if they were able to return and make it even more interesting than last time.

Dallas Mavericks4. Dallas (3): I love the way they’re playing, but I don’t believe in the way they’re playing. It’s great for the regular season. But when the playoffs arrive and scouting and defense becomes more intense, there’s one player I definitely trust (Dirk, of course) and two maybes (the Jasons: Terry and Kidd).

Boston Celtics5. Boston (6) KG is back and the world is back to normal for the C’s. They closed out two games, against the Clippers and Blazers, that they probably would have lost without the presence, sound and fury of No. 5. Speaking of which, does anyone know any good lip readers? I swear, before the year is over, I’m going to the Garden with a lip reader whose only assignment will be to focus on KG the entire night. Some people are offended by his rants. I’m not. I just want to know what he’s saying beyond the obvious, you know, “Take that, mother…” and other assorted f-bombs.

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