Power Rankings: Clippers climb, Minny makes move, Lakers leap, Rockets rise
By Marc Stein
The Indiana Pacers closed out the week with two tidy victories, both coming with Ron Artest watching as an injured spectator.
The Pacers have nonetheless taken a four-spot drop in ESPN.com's weekly NBA power rankings ... and it could have been steeper after what Artest did and said in street clothes.
An unexpected "trade me" demand and harsh criticism of coach Rick Carlisle's offensive system, delivered over the weekend to the Pacers' front office via the local newspaper, brought an abrupt end to a relatively calm start in Artest's comeback from a 73-game suspension. Worse yet, it creates a mammoth distraction for a team that was already struggling to deal with in-house dissension.
Impressive home victories over Washington and Memphis enabled Indiana to retain a top-10 slot at No. 9, but the response to this blow -- whether the Pacers can push on without Artest interference while assessing the trade possibilities -- will determine whether they slide further or finally make the climb into the elite that was forecast for Indy entering the season.