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The Times' Rankings

MARK HEISLER'S NBA RANKINGS, COMMENTS (last week's rank)

December 31, 2006|MARK HEISLER

*--* BIG GUYS 1. DALLAS (23-7) Now they're the hottest: Win shootout with Suns, now 23-3 since 0-4 start. (3) 2. PHOENIX (20-8) Good even for them: 19-3 since 1-5 start, averaging 116 this month. (2) 3. SAN ANTONIO (22-8) Missing ingredient: Popovich calls this his worst defensive team in years. (1) 4. UTAH (22-9) A 23-point loss in San Antonio shows young guys still have a ways to go. (5) 5. CHICAGO (19-12) There's only one of him: Ben Gordon averaging 22 this month ... off the bench. (7) 6. LAKERS (19-11) Nothing like being upset in three-overtime finale to make long trip feel like odyssey. (4) 7. DETROIT (18-10) Giddy before Knicks won in three overtimes, Pacers won at Palace, Billups got hurt. (6) ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN PLAYOFFS, SUPPOSEDLY 8. CLEVELAND (17-12) More USA Basketball fatigue? James' scoring average down from 31 to 27. (8) 9. WASHINGTON (17-13) After averaging 99 last month, Wizards crank it up to 117 in December. (10) 10. HOUSTON (18-12) With Yao out, McGrady gets 19-17-31 trying to be a No. 1 guy again. (12) 11. ORLANDO (18-14) Oops: Magic led Southeast by four games before losing nine of 13. (9) 12. DENVER (16-11) Just like 76ers: Iverson starts with Najera, Sampson, Diawara, DerMarr Johnson. (11) 13. MILWAUKEE (16-15) Meet the Suns of Wisconsin: Bucks just averaged 114 in 7-1 run. (15) 14. INDIANA (17-15) After winning in Detroit, the high point of season, Pacers lose at home to Bobcats. (13) 15. GOLDEN STATE (16-16) Traveling fireworks show: They either score 120 or give up that many. (14) 16. MINNESOTA (13-15) Widely scorned Ricky Davis, who at least could score, at six-season low at 14.4. (20) 17. CLIPPERS (13-16) Good/bad news: Would have been a lot worse if they hadn't played 18 in Staples. (19) 18. SACRAMENTO (13-15) All that remains to be seen is who stays: Artest, Bibby or neither. (22) REBUILDING OR IN ATLANTIC DIVISION RACE 19. NEW JERSEY (13-18) Losing by 25 at home to Rockets without Yao can't be a good sign. (24) 20. NEW YORK (13-19) Now "lovable underdogs" in Newsday as they go 4-2 since brawl. (25) 21. PORTLAND (13-18) In no-man's land between competing and blowing draft pick till last week. 17) 22. TORONTO (13-18) With Bosh missing last 12, they hang in at 6-6 as T.J. Ford averages 19. (16) 23. MIAMI (13-17) With O'Neal and Wade out, Miami Herald calls Heat "Jason Kapono's team." (21) 24. SEATTLE (12-19) Young big men -- Collison, Wilcox, Swift, Petro, Sene -- aren't happening. (26) 25. NEW ORLEANS (12-18) Hello lottery: Paul's out a month with forwards West, Stojakovic already gone. (18) 26. CHARLOTTE (9-21) Morrison, who shot one for 15 vs. Lakers, drops 30 on Pacers the next night. (28) 27. BOSTON (10-18) With Pierce out, starters aren't much older than Florida Gators. (23) 28. ATLANTA (9-19) Mike Woodson looks good to go with Hawks now 5-18 after 4-1 start. (27) 29. MEMPHIS (7-24) After months of paralysis, Heisley finally lets West fire Fratello. (30) 30. PHILADELPHIA (8-21) Whoever said Andre Miller could help them win too many to draft No. 1 can relax. (29)

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