Heisler’s Wednesday Power rankings

I have to put someone No. 1, so … why not the Heat?

Like it means anything.

Given the fact they have a post-season tournament, where you stand at the 25-game mark has never been all-important.

It may be all the more irrelevant in this compressed 66-game, 123-day season, 2011-12 season, with all the good teams young and all the old powers struggling.

Oh, right, the Spurs. Well, they were so old for so long, they brought in enough kids to be young again!

The post-season traditionally belongs to veteran teams, although we don’t know what happens after squashed seasons because we never had one like this before.

You can go back a long way to find a champion that was even as young as the Lakers in 2000 with Shaquille O’Neal, 28, and Kobe Bryant 21–in their eighth and fourth seasons, respectively—and a supporting cast almost completely comprised of veterans (Ron Harper, Brian Shaw, Rick Fox, A.C. Green).

Really young teams scarcely need apply. One that did, Shaq’s Magic which reached the 1996 Finals with four starters 26 or younger, came in as a solid favorite and was swept by the veteran Rockets.

It continued through last spring when the young Heat was favored and the old Mavericks upended the kids.

So if no one is tempted to give up on the Spurs, don’t write off the Lakers and Celtics, either.

Assuming they make the playoffs, it’s still anybody’s ballgame.

RANKTEAMTHE RUNDOWNLAST
1HEAT
(19-6)
LAST WEEK: 3-1 
Doing OK for team supposedly led by a choker, an imitation big man and what’s left of DWade. If you wonder what it is the Heat does do, it shoots NBA-best 48.5 percent, holds opponents to 43.2 percent, No. 9 in league, for league-best 5.1 pecent differential.
2
2THUNDER
(20-5)
LAST WEEK: 4-1 
Doing OK for a team with three guys in double figures, one of whom can’t shoot and another of whom is too left-handed. Whatever they are, they’re No. 3 in shooting (46.9 percent), No. 3 in opponents field goal percentage (42.2 percent), and No. 2 with differential of 4.7 percent.
3
3BULLS
(21-6)
LAST WEEK: 3-1  
Short season is getting longer all the time. Just went 4-3 without Luol Deng, and, as soon as he was back, saw back spasms force Derrick Rose out after 11 minutes of win over Nets.
1
4SIXERS
(18-7)
LAST WEEK: 3-1 
No-superstar ensemble power passes How Real Are They test, beating Bulls by 16, beating Lakers and Bulls…. Oh, and their shooting percentage differential, 4.4 percent, is third to Miami and OKC.
4
5SPURS
(17-9)
LAST WEEK: 4-0 
If they hung in at this level without Manu, they’re not going to be any worse next week when he’s expected to rejoin them midway through their epic Rodeo Road Trip.
10
6PACERS
(17-7)
LAST WEEK: 3-1 
Happening: Paul George, aka Danny Granger 2.0, posts two highest scoring games of his career going for 24 and 30. At 47percent from the floor, and 47 percent on threes, with Granger at 38 percent, maybe they should call George “Danny Granger With a Jump Shot.”
5
7CLIPPERS
(15-7)
LAST WEEK: 3-1 
Losing Billups sobers everyone up after 13-4 run with wins in Denver, Utah, Orlando, and one at home over OKC in eight days. If Randy Foye is hardly Mr. Big Shot, he’s still a capable two-guard they can start, keeping Mo Williams in his deadeye off-bench role.
8
8NUGGETS
(14-7)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 
After trading Melo and Mr. Big Shot for a nice nucleus they can keep, Geroge Karl insists they can do this without a closer. Let’s just say it’s the hard way to go when you get to playoffs and almost everyone you play has one.
6
9CELTICS
(14-10)
LAST WEEK: 4-0 
Oh ye of little faith—ok, make that “we of little faith”–Celtics look viable again with Rondo back, Big Three looking like they have a few more games in them as Paul Pierce, who averaged 10 points in his first nine games, turns back into Paul Pierce nd passes Larry Bird.
17
10MAGIC
(15-10)
LAST WEEK: 3-1 
Beating Pacers in Indy shows they’re still as good as anyone on a given night. Unfortunately, as far as keeping Dwight, I don’t think that’s going to do it.
16
11HAWKS
(16-9)
LAST WEEK: 0-3 
If they were levitating at first, winning nine of their first 11 without Horford, the ground is coming up fast after three home losses in a row, including one to the Suns. About to go on a seven-game West Coast trip.
9
12LAKERS
(14-11)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 
They wish their problem was just the fact they’re 3-9 on the road. Their problem surfaced last winter, was there for all to see by spring when Dallas swept them. They’re old, slow with two much riding on Kobe and their three (oops, make that two) big men.
11
13MAVERICKS
(14-11)
LAST WEEK: 0-3
No season for old men (cont.) Last time Nowitzki averaged as few as 17.2 points or shot as badly as 45.5 percent, Bill Clinton was president and Dirk was a 20-year-old rookie.
7
14BLAZERS
(14-11)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 
Looks like GM Kevin Pritchard will have to get them some more players? Oh, right, that was two years ago. OK, GM Rich Cho—oh, right, that was last season. Who’s there now? Chad Buchanan? And you say he’s only an interim guy? For a whole season?
14
15ROCKETS
(14-11)
LAST WEEK: 2-2
Missing Pau the same way the Lakers are missing Chris Paul. Dalembert doesn’t look like he’ll turn out to be the answer, with 14 points and 13 rebounds in first four games in February, after averaging 9-10 per game in January.
15
16WOLVES
(13-12)
LAST WEEK: 3-1 
Last time they were over .500 this late, KG was there. So why did they give Kevin Love a four-year extension with an out after three in 2015, instead of the five years through 2017 he wanted, so he could be telling them to trade him while they can get something for him by 2013?
18
17JAZZ
(13-11)
LAST WEEK:  1-4 
Inconvenient Truths: John Stockton, David Stern plead for truce after Karl Malone says front office backed DWill vs. Jerry Sloan. Owner Greg Miller says Mailman was always high-maintenance.
12
18GRIZZLIES
(12-13)
LAST WEEK: 1-3 
MRI shows Randolph’s knee on track for March 1 return, in time for stretch run if they can make it work with Zach Attack and Rudy Gay as well as it works with one less scorer and one more defender.
13
19SUNS
(11-14)
LAST WEEK: 2-1
Steve Nash, the only NBA star ever stuck on a bad team who didn’t ask to be traded, turns 38, averaging 15 points, 10 assists, shooting 56 percent overall, 46 percent on threes and 87 percent from the line.
24
20KNICKS
(10-15)
LAST WEEK: 2-2
Good news in Waiting for Our Savior Point Guard Land: With Shumpert turning back into a rookie and Baron yet to materialize, Jeremy Lin, of all people, takes over and gets 25-28 in wins over Nets, Jazz. What could go wrong now? Oh yeah, ‘Melo out 1-2 weeks.
19
21CAVALIERS
(9-14)
LAST WEEK: 1-3 
With nothing better to do, press hypes Kyrie Irving’s first game against LeBron James, the guy he replaced, more or less. As expected, Kyrie holds up his end (16-6-6), Bron is Bron (24-5-6) and Cavs lose by 16.
20
22BUCKS
(10-14)
LAST WEEK: 1-3
I don’t even know who you are any more: Scott Skiles has started 10 players — but only Brandon Jennings in every game. No. 2 Carlos Delfino is the only other one above 14.
21
23WARRIORS
(8-14)
LAST WEEK: 1-2 
Coming off a lost rookie season and a sophomore campaign that doesn’t have him among most improved candidates, Epke Udoh, No. 6 pick in 2010, squeezes into rotation, showing he can block shots—nine in the last three games—if not much else.
22
24NETS
(8-18)
LAST WEEK: 1-3
In the good news—at long last–they’re either coming, or Knicks are going. Could have passed cross-town rival (to be), but lost first installment of Battle of New York in Madison Square Garden.
23
25KINGS
(6-15)
LAST WEEK: 0-3 
Why this doesn’t work, or better wait another year or two to make that Anaheim move (cont.): 24 NBA players, including three small forwards, average more assists than Tyreke’s 5.0. Kings aren’t merely last at 16.0, they’re 2.0 per game behind No. 29 Wizards.
26
26RAPTORS
(8-18)
LAST WEEK: 1-3 
With his team in Lithuania missing post-season, Raptors reach out to see if they can get 7-footer Jonas Valanciunas, their No. 5 pick in the 2011 draft, who has a year left on his contract, now. How do you say, “What’s it worth to you?” in Lithuanian?
25
27PISTONS
(6-20)
LAST WEEK: 2-1 
With Greg Monroe averaging 21-12 this month and Brandon Knight a comer, their record is hardly a monument to overachievement. A year ago John Kuester won 30 games with Monroe feeling his way, Knight at UK and his veteran players in open revolt.
27
28WIZARDS
(5-20)
LAST WEEK: 1-3 
Knuckleheads R Us Coach Wittman says ““Rebounding is effort,” after home loss to Raptors. McGee, who had six rebounds, agrees, noting “We’ve definitely got to make up for it” next game, then gets four in home loss to Clippers.
28
29HORNETS
(4-21)
LAST WEEK: 0-4 
Another Dell Demps deal shot to hell: After announcing they’ll trade Chris Kaman, who won’t play in the interim, they announce they’re not trading him, putting him back on the floor. I assume that means someone in Olympic Tower didn’t like Dell’s sit-there-until-we-trade-you plan.
29
30BOBCATS
(3-22)
LAST WEEK: 0-3
Even for team that has tanked for most of its history, this is bad: Have lost 12 in a row, including two on West Coast by 33-44 as former Bobcat great Gerald Wallace said he asked to stay in as long as he could in Portland’s 112-68 romp because his old team “stabbed me in the back.”
30
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Comments

  1. Anthony Lee says

    Mark, Please bring back your Sunday Column!!! You should have your own website or a link to ALL your columns so your loyal readers don’t have to keep checking this site, huffington, twitter, etc. for your articles.

    Thanks for all the great years of articles! I read your Times articles every Sunday for 20 years and I’m 31 right now.

    • Berton Averre says

      Could not agree more. Mark’s Sunday column was virtually the only reason I kept the Sunday times delivery. Missing it big time. The more Heisler the better: Sheridan Hoops, please note.

  2. Jason says

    Something posted on February 8 should have the current records of all teams on that date, shouldn’t it? Clearly you didn’t pay attention to what the Kings have been doing lately, including a three-game winning streak. Also, way to take a mature swipe at Sacramento with that Anaheim remark. The arena planning is making progress. Watch the Thunder-Kings game on TNT tomorrow night and you’ll see the dedication fans still have to their team in Sacramento.

  3. Robert Lehrer says

    As a longtime follower of Mike Heisler when he wrote for the LA Times, it’s refreshing and entertaining to see his weekly rankings and comments again. Thanks Mark!

  4. OC says

    As a non LAC fan, I find it interesting that you (and mostly everybody else) believes the Clippers are going to sorely miss Billups. Outside of a handful of games this year, he’s been awful. He was shooting 36% and is an offense killer. How many possessions each game does he hoist a bad shot before the offense even has a chance to get moving? With Williams, Foye and eventually Bledsoe, the Clips should be fine. “Mr. Big Shot” was a great player and I’m sure Chris Paul and everybody else saying how bad he’ll be missed are making those statements of respect to him, but I just don’t get what everybody has been watching this year. Grantland’s Bill Simmons (LAC season ticket holder) has probably seem Billups play the most in person this year out of NBA writers and he seems to be the only person who hasn’t been afraid to say how much Billups has been holding back the Clips this year.

    *Bulls should be 21-6*

    • Chris says

      OC,

      I don’t believe the Clips will truly miss Billups until the postseason, when Williams and Foye are unable to replicate his smarts and guile and love for the moment. I remember Mo disappearing in big playoff series with Cleveland, and Foye has never been in a big playoff series. Chauncey always puts his stamp on a postseason game.

  5. Benoit says

    Sorry Heisler: hard to take you seriously since you apparently write these from the future. Where I’m at the Spurs haven’t played the Sixers yet. And so the Sixers haven’t beat them yet.. Not saying they won’t, but you’re jumping the gun …

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