Feeling the heat from those rising Suns

The Suns' heat wave has left Phoenix fans all burned up about preseason predictions.

Updated: December 29, 2002, 1:25 PM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

ESPN.com users sound off on senior writer Marc Stein's NBA Power Rankings from Dec. 24. Included are Stein's comments to the top 10 responses.

Amare Stoudemire
Amare Stoudemire's Suns have had surprising success.
1. Finally! Now everyone who trashed my boys from the desert over the summer, through preseason and through the start of the season can eat their words. I think even you, ESPN, had predicted us to finish in 26th place. I knew we had something good going on. Finally we're getting more highlights on SportsCenter and other NBA shows. I am happy to finally say the Suns are a good team, and I'm enjoying their success. One more thing: I love what's happening to the Lakers. I knew they would fall apart, just like I knew the Suns would come together.
Tim Ball
Phoenix, Ariz.

STEIN: Since the Suns are so hot, we'll let you have your fun, Tim. Even though no one here or anywhere else remembers you predicting anything about Phoenix rising or the Lakers crumbling. Where did you make these alleged proclamations? Fantasy NBA is another department here at ESPN.com. You must be lost.

2. The Pacers should be No. 2. The whole starting front line will make the All-Star team and Isiah Thomas will coach them. Let head-to-head matchups decide if the Kings and San Antonio belong ahead of the Pacers.
Rahsaan Muhammad
Indianapolis, Ind.

STEIN: That would be fine, Rahsaan, except the Pacers haven't played the Kings or Spurs yet. If we waited for teams to play each other, the only Power Rankings would come out in April.

3. Imagine how bad the Sonics would (will?) be without Gary Payton. He is the only player on that team who can break down defenses off the dribble, and, when healthy, disrupts offenses with his tenacious defense on opposing point guards. GP has an injury he sustained with two minutes left in a game the Sonics led by 26 points. That is the basic problem: Nate McMillan treated the first two months like they were the playoffs. He already has a dinged-up and tired team that at its best can be competitive with anyone -- but the chances of them improving or even staying at this level are slim.
Jim Hawley
Seattle, Wash.

STEIN: Nate hasn't had much of a bench to work with amid season-long injury trouble, so that's why the main rotation guys have been logging such heavy minutes. Knowing Payton, I'm sure he's livid with himself that he didn't find a way to win at least one of those games in that skid where all four losses came by a total of seven points. Enjoyed your well-reasoned case, though. Don't get enough of those.

4. OK. I have realized one thing since I have been looking at your Power Rankings. You are a loser. There is no way in the world the Nets and the Pacers should be in front of the best defensive team in the NBA, especially when the Pistons hold victories over both of them. I'm not even going to comment on the Spurs being No. 3.
Thad Irbman
Baltimore, Md.

STEIN: See?

5. I apologize for all the "Pistons should be higher than 6" e-mails. I traveled to Atlanta and Cleveland to see them play in the last two weeks and even this dyed-in-the-wool Pistons fan must admit: Not yet, not yet.
Rob Fisher
Tallahassee, Fla.

STEIN: Can you talk to Thad for me? Don't forget to mention that, by bringing up the Spurs at No. 3, he is commenting on them.

Eddie Jones
Eddie Jones, right, and the Heat are among many teams vying for top-20 status.
6. As bad as the Heat is, a three-game winning streak should lift them higher in the rankings than 24th.
Adam Prince
Miami, Fla.

STEIN: Debatable, Adam. Debatable. Loss to Cleveland and some other so-so teams in that region (Milwaukee, Atlanta, Chicago, Golden State) make even No. 20 some prime real estate in these bigger-than-life rankings. The Warriors, in the midst of a bumpy stretch, are really the only team the Heat could have looked at Tuesday with raised eyebrows. Remember, though, that the Warriors did beat New Orleans recently.

7. With Hubie Brown's coaching, a rejuvenated Wesley Person (I know he's injured, but not for that long) and Jason Williams playing the way he has lately, don't you think the Grizzlies, considering their recent wins, should be somewhere above the Warriors or Knicks? Boy, those teams stink. I'll admit, the Grizzlies stunk for a while, but lately ...
Hubert Chin
Vienna, Va.

STEIN: Grizz aren't there yet, Hubert. As stated above, even No. 20 is a prized ranking that many teams would trade their young for. But if the Grizz can generate fandom from Virginia, maybe they're on the way.

8. How could you put the Hornets above the Celtics? Not only do the Celts have a better record than the Hornets, but Paul Pierce and the C's manhandled the Hornets at the beginning of December. Truthfully.
Mat Helman
Brookline, Mass.

STEIN: It had nothing to do with the Christmas Day massacre in Jersey, which will figure into next Tuesday's rankings. It had everything to do with Boston's back-to-back losses to Miami and Chicago.

9. The Wiz should be higher than the Lakers. They have a better record than the Lakers and have been playing better lately. I'm not saying that the Wiz deserve to be No. 1, but they are better than No. 19.
Kyle Paredes
Dollar Bay, Mich.

STEIN: Wiz have like two wins all season over teams with a winning record and none since Dec. 4 at Detroit. Which is why they are where they are.

10. I don't understand how anyone in their right mind can rank the Lakers as high as 15th. Has anyone actually watched a Lakers game this year? They do play like All-Stars -- no defense. They are the type of team that feels they are owed a championship and in my opinion that is a disgrace.
Chris Bruni
Baltimore, Md.

STEIN:The goal was to find 10 e-mails out of the thousands we get with no mention of Laker Outrage. Sorry, everyone. Nine is the best we could do.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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