Mark Heisler's NBA rankings
Pau Gasol's return keeps Lakers on top of a logjam.
RANKINGS, COMMENTS THROUGH SATURDAY YOU SORT THEM OUT 1. (tie) LAKERS (9-3) Don't leave me again: Kobe goes back to Kobe the Munificent with Pau back. (1) 1. (tie) ORLANDO (10-3) Why they got Vince Carter: Take over with 10 in fourth quarter in win in Boston. (5) 1. (tie) PHOENIX (10-3) Not because of schedule: nine of first 13 were on road, as are four of next six. (3) 4. (tie) ATLANTA (11-3) For those skeptical they can play big dogs on even terms, just lost to Hornets. (2) 4. (tie) CLEVELAND (10-4) Finally going athletic as comer Hickson gets chance! Of course, Shaq's hurt. (4) 4. (tie) DENVER (9-4) After horrid debut as Earl Smith, J.R. gets 18-20-29 off bench as J.R. Smith. (6) 4. (tie) DALLAS (10-3) Just went 5-0 with Dampier ill, Gooden averaging 14-11 as their center. (10) 4. (tie) BOSTON (9-4) Just went 3-4. Remember KG, fire-breathing dragon who drove them? This isn't him. (9) 4. (tie) PORTLAND (10-5) After losing Batum, once-deep team sees Travis Outlaw go down, too. (7)UPSTARTS/SLOW STARTERS10. MILWAUKEE (8-3) Who is this guy, MJ II? Since getting 55, Brandon Jennings has 25-19-29-26. (12)11. HOUSTON (8-6) McGrady's I'll-be-back-soon act has worn them all out. Now no one cares. (14)12. UTAH (7-6) Chance to get well. Just won three in row with their next five at home. (20)13. MIAMI (7-5) Just went 1-4 with Wade shooting 39% as opponents load up on him. (8)14. OKLAHOMA CITY (7-6) Sefolosha, second coming of Pippen as defender, holds Wade to 6-19 from floor. (11) 15. SAN ANTONIO (5-6) Duncan's decline has been gradual but it's real: At 33, now at career-low 17 a game. (13) 16. CHICAGO (6-6) Derrick Rose gets 20-28 in last two, finally looking like Derrick Rose. (17) 17. INDIANA (5-5) About to finally see whole team: Murphy back with Dunleavy Jr. due this week. (18)18. NEW ORLEANS (6-8) Collison, who had played 44 minutes, becomes starter, scores 12-15-22 in 3-0 run. (25)19. TORONTO (6-7) Euro-style offense averaging 107. Unfortunately Euro-style defense allowing 108. (15)20. SACRAMENTO (5-7) Tyreke Evans, averaging 11, shooting 34% when Martin was hurt, at 24, 45% since. (19)21. DETROIT (5-8) Lakers fans enjoy Kwame's return, seeing him take passes off chest, chase them down. (16)22. PHILADELPHIA (5-8) Speights out. Elton struggling. Dalembert's agent wants him traded, as do 76ers. (21)REAL SLOW STARTERS/STIFFS23. CLIPPERS (5-9) Thanks, they needed that: Nuggets upset shows they have pulse with Gordon on way back.(23)24. MEMPHIS (4-9) Beat Clippers, Minnesota, then went to Philly and beat real team, more or less. (27) 25. WASHINGTON (3-9) Don't ever leave us again: Jamison gets 28 in first game as they upend Cavaliers. (26)26. GOLDEN STATE (4-8) Nellie may get in coach-of-year race for performance despite self-imposed turmoil. (24)27. CHARLOTTE (3-9) Jackson has a few weeks to dig life without Nellie before Larry starts in on him. (22)28. NEW YORK (3-9) Curry, whom they're dying to unload, scores 10 in 12 minute of LONG-awaited debut. (29)29. MINNESOTA (1-12) Critics say they're sacrificing season. What, as opposing to going for title? (28)30. NEW JERSEY (0-13) They just miss Devin Harris but like Dunleavy, Frank's bad luck goes back years. (30)