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|Chris Webber and the Kings were No. 1 on Tuesday ... Tuesday, got that?! That's before they went down.|
Stein: Much as we appreciate anyone who checks in from anywhere overseas, a clarification is in order: This ain't the NFL. An unbeaten record doesn't guarantee anything in the first week of our NBA Power Rankings. I heard from scores of Mavs and Sonics fans asking why their teams weren't in the top spots along with New Jersey. It's simple. Both teams had weak opening schedules and, in Dallas' case, the Mavs didn't play as well as the results suggest. The Kings got the top spot because, at the time the rankings were computed, they had started 3-0 without Mike Bibby -- and also without Chris Webber in a nationally televised humbling of Portland -- before the ugly loss in Miami. Their start, to me, was more impressive under the circumstances than Dallas' or Seattle's. And that was enough, this being a committee of one.
Obviously things have changed; Sacramento lost the next two games after the rankings went public. But I know in my heart -- I honestly believe it -- that I will eventually stop getting e-mails on Wednesdays and Thursdays complaining that the rankings from Tuesday haven't been updated. I have faith that all our visitors to the NBA Power Rankings, whether they come from far away like Sascha or from closer to home, will quickly understand that the rankings come out every Tuesday and will not change until the following Tuesday. It's going to happen someday soon. I can feel it.2. So I guess you like to base your picks on which team has a better record. The Bulls over the Celtics? How the heck do you have the Celtics ranked 21st? They have two of the top 20 players in the league in Walker and Pierce. It's laughable that you have ranked them that low, and I'm sure you will look like an idiot later in the season. This is the NBA, not the NFL. You can't change the rankings from game to game, especially not this early.
Stein: See? Eric knows that this isn't the NFL. What Eric doesn't know is that, this being a committee of one, the rankings can actually change rather easily. The Celtics were "punished" -- and I'm sure they took it hard -- because of the manner of defeat in their first two losses. A fall-from-ahead loss to Chicago, followed by the 45-point embarrassment against the Wiz. The Celts have rebounded slightly since, but still aren't playing the kind of defense that took them to the Eastern Conference Finals. They have to live with Vin Baker now, and adding a legit point guard probably can't happen until the tight-fisted Paul Gaston vacates the owner's chair. But the Celtics can certainly do something about that D. They'll need to if they really want to climb back up.3. How can you rank the Magic No. 10? That's way too low for a 3-1 team. You put the Lakers in front of us? I thought you guys were ranking them on this season, not last season or any previous season. Otherwise, the Celtics should be first. Am I right? Sixteen titles.
Stein: Good one, Bishoy. I normally would have dismissed this as yet another Magic fan moaning about me supposedly "hating" Orlando, but you rallied with a good line at the end. So you get published. In the overall picture, however, not too convincing. Magic got docked some because Grant Hill caused another ankle scare just when the rankings were being computed. That falls under the Weekly Barometer category and detracted somewhat from the 3-1 start. Fair? The committee of one thought so.4. It's great to see the Bulls anywhere in the top 20. It's been, what, five years? If only we could have beaten Toronto.
Stein: Much more important than beating the Raps or anyone else is developing the Baby Bulls. Which hasn't been happening. Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry aren't playing enough. Wins in November aren't going to mean much if Chandler, Curry and Jay Williams don't look like the beginnings of a nucleus come April.5. I am a Pistons' fan and even I can't believe you have us ranked in the top 5. I've only been impressed with two things about the Pistons so far: Richard Hamilton and our depth. Ben Wallace hasn't been nearly as intimidating as he was last year. Michael Curry is worthless on the court; he's basically a coach like Ty Detmer of the Lions. Chauncey Billups has been a bust; he's identical to Chucky Atkins except taller and I actually think Atkins is better. Corliss Williamson and Jon Barry, our two most important players from last year's team, are both shooting under 40 percent. And we looked horrible for three quarters against the Knicks, whom you rank last. We're a top-5 team? I don't think so.
Stein: In a bow to my man Dan from Hermosa Beach who called for more User responses with good points instead of outlandish statements, here's one. Aaron makes a strong case to suggest the Pistons, like Dallas, aren't playing as well as their record indicates. Two reactions come to mind: A) It's not so bad to be winning so often when you're not playing well, and don't underestimate the effectiveness of Detroit's defense and depth in wearing teams down even when the offense isn't clicking. And: B) Congrats on being the first User yet to argue against his or her team's high standing. Didn't expect one of those all season.6. Sorry, but the Grizz are way too low in your Power Rankings. Yes, they're 0-4 and have major problems with their D. But the four teams they lost to are Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5. They almost defeated the Spurs, except the soon-to-be MVP Tim Duncan had to show his greatness and hit that game-winning shot. I would have to say that the Grizz are somewhere around 20.
Stein: Sorry, Ben. Another reasonable argument, but you forgot our barometer considerations. Grizz haven't been playing hard, except for the San Antonio game, and were "punished" a la the Celtics. The 0-3 start gave a distinct impression that the players in Memphis sense Sidney Lowe is a lameduck coach and were playing without fire as a result. I agree that the Grizz should be closer to No. 20 than No. 29 based on talent. But it wasn't an acceptable start from a passion and margin-of-victory standpoint.7. I normally am pretty content with the overall layout of the rankings. But this week I cannot ignore it. Two things really bother me. The first is the Nets. They have a very good team, but the Nets beat the Hawks without Shareef Abdur-Rahim and beat the Wolves (a two-player team) without Wally Szczerbiak. I am tired of everyone jumping on the Nets' bandwagon. Kenyon Martin is an undersized 4, Kerry Kittles isn't even in the top 15 as far as shooting guards go, and Dikembe Mutombo is old and gets in the way. How you rank them higher than the Mavs, Lakers, Hornets and Spurs is beyond me. My second point is about the Knicks. There is no doubt in my mind that they are a lottery team this year, but to put them on the bottom is just a move you made to try to get attention. They were in every game so far this year. Don't embarrass them by putting them that low until they start getting blown out every night.
Stein: Strong stuff, Kev. Enjoy the floor, you earned it. Except -- and I mean it this time -- we're going to crack down hard on those who don't include their last names. You've seen how we punish teams. Consider yourselves warned.8. Kings are No. 1 and Knicks are No. 29. Knicks beat Kings. You get paid to do this? How can I get this job?
Stein: My best advice, Rich, is play a lot of pickup ball and then write in to say you know tons more about the game than the committee.9. Look. If I am going to skip Biology 1421 just to see these rankings every week, next week the Mavs had best get some loving.
Stein: Colby, you remind me of me. I used to skip Biology all the time at that hoop powerhouse known as Cal State Fullerton. To this day, I still wake up mortified sometimes ... still having that same nightmare about forgetting that Biology was even on my schedule until Finals week. And then flunking the big exam.
Thing is, when I was skipping Biology, it was for something worthwhile. Double-doubles at In-N-Out, mostly. NBA Power Rankings? C'mon, Colby. The Mavs are going to be fine. They'll be in the top 5 all year, I'd guess. Stop worrying. Go to class.10. Plain in Simple: The Rankings Suck!
Stein: Plain AND Simple: You can do a little better, too. Eh?
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.