Heisler’s Wednesday Power Rankings

Where did everyone go?

It was great working from Los Angeles the last 12 years when all the good times were in the West, which meant short flights and short series.

West teams won the first five titles after Michael Jordan left the Bulls in 1998, by a combined 20-4.

East teams won three Finals in the last decade (Pistons in 2004, Heat in 2006, Celtics in 2008), all as underdogs, beating the Lakers (in the final tumult-filled season of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant), the Mavericks (who were up 2-0 and led by 13 in the last 6:30 of Game 3) and Lakers (the Kobe-Pau Gasol team that romped through a 12-3 West draw, developed a big opinion of themselves and were shut down by the Celtics defense.)

The decade ended with the Lakers winning back-to-back, in the days when I kept writing that after three Finals appearances and two titles in a row, they had yet to play their best, with Pau and Andrew Bynum healthy at the same time.

Now Andrew and Pau are healthy, as is Kobe, but there’s little else to them.

The precocious Thunder is wise beyond its years, but we’re not talking a great team by any stretch of the imagination.

Lakers?

Over, or getting there, until they find reinforcements, with no assurance whatsoever of landing either of next summer’s prized free agents, Dwight Howard or Deron Williams.

Mavericks?

Over, at least in this incarnation.

Of course, if Mark Cuban can cut everyone and land Dwight and DWill, they’re just starting out.

Spurs?

Having done a great job of rebuilding on the fly, they could win the West, since any of these teams could, but they’ve had a lot of teams better than this one.

Denver?

Did a great job of creating a future, or hanging in until Knick owner James Dolan created one for them, sending them all those players for Carmelo Anthony.

Of course, they could win the West, too, since, any of these teams could.

The Clippers?

Gee, I know they’re the Clippers, but did you see what they did to the Thunder last week?

On the other hand, if we’re waiting on the Clippers, things have definitely changed for the worse a lot of other places.

RANKTEAMTHE RUNDOWNLAST
1BULLS
(18-5)
LAST WEEK: 2-2  
Showing why home court will be so important, they just lost 97-93 in Miami as Rose missed two late FTs, cutting their lead over Heat to one game.
1
2HEAT
(16-5)
LAST WEEK: 4-0 
While the press keeps doing its he’s-not-clutch-point-guard-mentality tarantella around LeBron, he’s at 29-8-7, shooting career-highs 55%, 40% on threes.
5
3THUNDER
(16-4)
LAST WEEK: 2-1 
Somebody who plays point guard needs to look harder: Ibaka, the No. 4 scorer they need, is down from last season’s 9.9 points to 7.5 but still makes 50% of his shots.
2
4SIXERS
(15-6)
LAST WEEK: 3-1 
The NBA’s only no-superstar ensemble power gets a “How Real Are They?” contest tonight, at home against the Bulls.
3
5PACERS
(14-6)
LAST WEEK: 3-1 
Larry Bird, about to pack it in last spring, is up for exec of year with a rising team and enough salary coming off his cap to make them a player in free agency the next two summers.
6
6NUGGETS
(14-7)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 
12-5 since 2-2 start even if some haven’t noticed: SlickRickDaFish asks via Twitter how I could put them at No. 9 last week. Like Mitt Romney, I had my rankings in a blind trust so get off my back and go ask the trustee.
9
7MAVERICKS
(14-8)
LAST WEEK: 3-1
14-5 since 0-3 start–without Caron, Tyson, JJ, with Dirk out for four and Kidd in and out, retired, or both. When you can’t account for a team’s success, I assume it’s their coach, Rick Carlisle.
16
8CLIPPERS
(12-6)
LAST WEEK: 2-1 
No, they’re not as good as they looked routing Thunder, bombing OKC with four threes in 50 seconds before Blake Mozgoved Perk. They can’t be that good. No one is that good.
7
9HAWKS
(16-6)
LAST WEEK: 3-1 
If they’re 8-2 without Al Horford, maybe they should put Joe Johnson on waivers, too. Or not, since they haven’t beaten anyone better than Portland at home.
10
10SPURS
(13-9)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 
Putting everything in perspective as usual, Pop asks reporter inquiring about condensed season “How does you wife put up with you? She has no choice for now.” Not that it always works for him but the Spurs are still here!
8
11LAKERS
(13-9)
LAST WEEK: 3-1 
Mike Brown’s just doing what he did in Cleveland, emphasizing defense while giving ball to his best player on offense. Of course, he had Bron, who passed the ball, and no one to throw it to like Drew and Pau.
14
12JAZZ
(12-7)
LAST WEEK:  1-2 
If they’re hardly second coming of Stockton & Malone, or even DWill & Carlos, they’re still physical and, at 10-3 at home, a tough task to tackle in Salt Lake City.
13
13GRIZZLIES
(11-10)
LAST WEEK: 1-3 
At least, the Lakers can tell everyone to stop crying about stealing Pau. With Marc, 27, at 15-11-3 and 2.3 blocks, shooting 51%, Lakes might go for sending everyone back where they came from.
12
14BLAZERS
(12-9)
LAST WEEK: 1-2 
If they’re doing this with Felton down from last season’s career-best 1.5 threes a game to 0.6, making 20%, think what they’ll do if he can start hitting the ocean from a boat.
11
15ROCKETS
(12-9)
LAST WEEK: 2-2
You’re on your own explaining this one. Still keeping on keeping on with Scola the only major contributor left from two years ago, Coach Rick Adelman gone, and Kevin McHale, having just gotten there.
15
16MAGIC
(12-9)
LAST WEEK: 0-4 
At 12-5, press says Dwight should finish season there. At 0-4 since, with Dwight ripping teammates for not handling his situation better, will press say Magic should: a) Trade him now, b) Waive him, or c) Suspend him for season?
4
17CELTICS
(10-10)
LAST WEEK: 3-1 
5-1 run takes Team No One Wants to Play in the Playoffs to a playoff slot, at last. More good news: Celtics are in the East, where a 27-32 finish should be good enough to get them in!
17
18WOLVES
(10-11)
LAST WEEK: 3-1 
If shooting 37% this month shows Rubio has a hole in his game—the one everyone thought he had—he’s still special as he is, with heretofore-overmatched T-Wolves 7-4 in his starts.
18
19KNICKS
(8-13)
LAST WEEK: 1-3
Reduced to hoping Baron can save them. If you want to know what he was, check video of his jam over AK47 in 2007 playoffs. If you want to know what he is, so do they, still awaiting his debut.
19
20CAVALIERS
(8-12)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 
Remember that rookie race I said was back on? It’s back off: Kyrie Irving, who’s shooting 54% since Jan. 1, beats Celtics in Boston with last-second left-handed finger roll.
20
21BUCKS
(9-11)
LAST WEEK: 3-1
So much for Bogut’s comings and goings: Looks like he just went out for the last time this season with ankle injury, which would mean he will have missed 129 of 312 over last four seasons.
23
22WARRIORS
(7-12)
LAST WEEK: 2-1 
Everyone knows where this is headed: Monta, who may be a monster waiting to help some good team, will get chance to show it as soon as this team, which has little but its two-smurf backcourt, finds a deal.
22
23NETS
(7-15)
LAST WEEK: 2-2
Or maybe Avery’s just bummed out: Their timetable had Brook Lopez back in two weeks—so they can try to trade him to Orlando for Dwight–but Johnson says he doesn’t expect him “any time soon.”
26
24SUNS
(7-13)
LAST WEEK: 2-1
Just lost nine of 12 after 4-4 start, and with seven of their next nine on the road, they should be well into tanking scenarios by the time that’s over.
21
25RAPTORS
(7-15)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 
They’re 6-7 with Bargnani, 2-7 without him, making it bad news, indeed, that he just tore calf muscle “much worse” than last time when he missed five games.
24
26KINGS
(6-15)
LAST WEEK: 0-3 
Of course, at 6-11, 270, 21 years of age and 15 points and 11 rebounds a game, it might not be such a bad idea to take your shot at chilling out high-maintenance DeMarcus Cousins..
25
27PISTONS
(4-19)
LAST WEEK: 0-5 
2-16 since 2-3 start: It’s hard enough if you have young super-prospects like Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon. All they have is nice ones like Greg Monroe and Brandan Knight
27
28WIZARDS
(4-17)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 
Randy Wittman, described as “Flip Saunders without the charm,” matches this season’s win total (2) for Knuckleheads R Us with adroit scheduling by management, naming him coach in time to beat Bobcats twice.
30
29HORNETS
(4-17)
LAST WEEK: 1-3 
I bet David Stern doesn’t get in the way of this one, even if franchise value drops yet again: Chris Kaman has been such a pain, Hornets announce they won’t play him until they can find someone to take him.
28
30BOBCATS
(3-19)
LAST WEEK: 0-4
When is it a bad idea to have a 25-year-old former No. 4 overall pick in your rebuilding program? When he’s Tyrus Thomas, averaging 7.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, shooting 42 percent.
29
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