Hello Brooklyn. No, not to the rankings, but to the northern side of the .500 level. I’d give those impressive back-to-back wins a bit more credit, had they not been at the hands of the Orlando Magic. Show me something on national television on Thursday vs. the Celtics, and we can talk about something. An overwhelming majority of Lakers Nation may be disappointed in the selection of Mike D’Atoni as head coach, but with the primary concern being Brown’s limitations on Steve Nash, folks shouldn’t be completely surprised they went in this direction. Personally, I was in favor of Jackson proving whether the third time could be a charm, but if the D’Antoni Euro-ball system can take Staples into Great Western Forum heights/levels, then sign me up. Won’t necessarily take a victory, but prove something to me vs. the Spurs at home, and the Lakers could be right within even the top 5 mix during Week 3. Dallas, I gave you props for the fast start, but don’t lose games to the Bobcats and a decimated Timberwolves squad and expect to stay in the rankings.
#1 San Antonio Spurs 6-1 (Lask Week- 1): Tough to start a road trip in Los Angeles with a double-digit loss at the hands of the Clippers and not lose your position. Spurs announcer Sean Elliot’s interaction with Demarcus Cousins resulted in Cousins being suspended, so even the announcers are knocking them down. Was impressed by the victory in Portland, but can they return to LA for some redemption with a win over the Lakers?
#2 New York Knicks 4-0 (3): Undefeated is undefeated. Winning a couple vs. a Bynum-less Philly is one thing, but slowing up a hot Dallas team is another. Not saying they will end the year as a better team than Miami. Not saying they won’t, for that matter. Big time test with three games in four nights (Spurs/Grizzlies/Pacers).
#3 Miami Heat 6-2 (2): Destroyed the Nets in South Beach before dropping a tough one in Memphis. LeBron out-duels Harden in Houston. Finish this West Coast swing with a strong showing in L.A (LAC), DEN, and PHX and they could return the favor by leapfrogging the Knicks.
#4 Oklahoma City Thunder 6-2 (5): Can’t penalize them for the quality of their opponent, so I have to commend them for continuing their 5-game streak. A road game vs. Ant Davis and the Hornets is sandwiched by home visits from Memphis and Golden State. Three different tests from three very different teams. Clippers and Celtics on the distant horizon, but first things first.
#5 Los Angeles Clippers 5-2 (6): Rebounded from their bumpy start with three impressive wins over San Antonio, Portland (@Rose Garden), and Atlanta. Doesn’t get any easier with Miami, Chicago, and a rematch @ San Antonio coming up. DeAndre Jordan has two 20-point games in the first seven…something he didn’t do a single time last season. Consistency will be the key.
#6 Memphis Grizzlies 5-1 (7): ZBo and Gay are playing well, and coach Lionel Hollins has found a way to get them to co-exist and thrive in the same space. Show me what you have on the road vs. the Thunder and at home vs. the Knicks, before the schedule-makers do you the favor of a trip to Charlotte. I asked if Conley could take the next step before the season, and he is averaging career numbers. Can he maintain them?
#7 Milwaukee Bucks 4-2 (8): Leaders of the Central Division, the Bucks are looking to be the team that capitalizes on the absence of Derrick Rose. Still intrigued by the pairing or Ellis and Jennings in the back court, but it seems to be working. Big tests coming up in about a week, but don’t look past the Pacers and Hornets this week.
#8 Minnesota Timberwolves 5-2 (9): No Love/Rubio? No problem. With Brandon Roy already sitting due to soreness in his knees, you have to wonder how long they will be able to stay above water? Love is expected to return to action a bit earlier than previously expected (10-12 days), but Rubio isn’t expected until January. That couldn’t come soon enough, as the second half of December and ALL of January could be brutal due to their schedule.
#9 Los Angeles Lakers 3-4 (10): The hiring that shocked the world.. D’Antoni defeats Jackson, but it went to a decision. Surprising or not, the choice was made. With P-Jax out if the mix, adding McMillan to the coaching staff would ease the pain. Still without Nash, now back-up Steve Blake has an abdominal strain. Duhon had his best statistical year under D’Antoni (NY), but can he and 2nd-year guard Darius Morris offer enough at the position to run the new system?
#10 Boston Celtics 4-3 (N/A): Rondo’s double-digit assist streak was extended, and the Celtics keep streaking back into relevance. With Utah, Brooklyn, Toronto, and Detroit on the schedule this week, you have to take care of business. Celtics fans shouldn’t accept anything less than 3-1.
Written By Jabari A. Davis