- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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ESPN.com users sound off on senior writer Marc Stein's NBA Power Rankings from Feb. 4. Stein's comments to some of the best responses are also included.
It's amazing to check out the Power Rankings each week and find the Lakers much higher than they should be every single week. It's just getting ridiculous. Eighth? With a 22-23 record? I realize they are the three-time NBA champs, but this isn't the first month of the season anymore, this is the All-Star break. There is no reason for a sub-.500 record for a good team this late in the season, and they definitely shouldn't be in the top 10. What's going on here?
Big Bend, Wis.
STEIN: No, Mike. There's no reason, this late in the season, for e-mails like this, and yet the inbox was flooded by hundreds just like it. The reason the Lakers were in my top 10, even at 22-23 and even before what happened this week, is because they are a title contender right freaking now, as Denis Lemieux might have said in Slap Shot. On Tuesday morning, the Lakes were right up there with Sacramento and Dallas and whomever you might suggest from the East. Even at 22-23. There is not one other team in that region of the rankings you could say that about. Why is this so tough to understand? There are no secrets here: L.A. is most definitely judged by a different set of critieria than anyone other team. Wolves, Suns, Rockets, Jazz - list anyone you want in that range. None of those teams is a title threat. The Lakers will be viewed as such by the committee until they are dumped from the playoffs and that status is worth bonus points in these rankings. Like it or not, that's the way we do it.
Do you honestly believe the Pistons are the best team in the East? Who on that team can play defense besides Ben Wallace? The Nets and Pacers both got jobbed in your rankings.
West Milford, Conn.
STEIN: On Tuesday, yeah, the Pistons were the best team in the East.
What are you smoking? You are the biggest bandwagon-jumper that I have ever seen. As long as it's a Western Conference team, you are all over them. The suspensions that the Pacers received were absolutely ridiculous.
STEIN: You're right, Joe. When a Western Conference team gets two suspensions in a week, we're all over them. If you've followed the rankings, you know how we've penalized the Blazers for their transgressions. Same applied to the Pacers last week in their slip to No. 7 because Artest, getting in trouble yet again, can have a long-term impact on his reputation. It was a nightmare week for Indy and that's why the Pacers dipped. Is it permanent? No. But it was a really, really bad week. Funny, but we didn't get a lot of complaints from Pacer People when Indy was briefly up at No. 1.
Thanks for the props. No. 3 is where I want us to stay. Please no No. 1 jinx for us, thank you. Only complaint: We own the Spurs.
STEIN: I always get this one from Blazers fans because Portland won the teams' first two meetings this season. That doesn't constitute ownership here, sorry.
I usually can't complain about the rankings because, for the most part, you're more accurate than some give you credit for. But dropping the Nets to sixth this week just seems silly. After a long West Coast trip they come home and have a 3-1 week (hard to do after long road trips) and the only loss comes at Detroit where four of the team's top six players are out. Kenyon Martin is proving he's better than many of his Atlanta-bound conference mates and I think the team is poised to widen its lead in the Atlantic and even put distance between themselves and Detroit and Indiana after the break. Aside from the Kings, perhaps no one has lost more man-games to injury than the Nets and yet they keep winning. Of course, none of that makes any difference in this week's rankings.
STEIN: Thank you, Patrick, from reminding everyone how to construct a Rank Comment based on a well-supported case as opposed to mere outrage. Now, the explanation: Nets didn't so much slide last week as get bumped down by a couple hotter teams moving above them. Spurs, Blazers and Pistons all rose in our eyes and that sent the Nets down a peg more than usual. I think you'll find that the Nets have maintained the highest of rankings here all season.
Don't you think the Bucks deserve a little more credit than they have received, having won all these games recently. Toni Kukoc has been healthy for a while and they are coming together as a team, unlike last year. No. 13 is a decent ranking but I assure you they will keep on winning.
Green Bay, Wis.
STEIN: It's a shade early to say that all the Bucks' problems in the past year have been wiped away by a few good weeks. To crack the top 10, Milwaukee will have to sustain the run past the All-Star break.
I'm a huge Mavs fan and always will be, but until the Mavs can actually beat a top team from their own conference they don't deserve the top spot. Even with all the wins, you just can't overlook the fact that they can't beat the Kings, Lakers or Spurs. They couldn't even beat a Webber-less (and Jackson-less) Kings team. I really think the Mavs are the best team in the league, but if they can't prove to the world that they can beat those teams on a regular basis, keep them out of the No. 1 spot.
John Hawkins (MFFL)
STEIN: Harsh words from a guy who signs his e-mail, "Mavs Fan For Life." (As an aside, why do they sell one-year memberships to join the Mavs Fan For Life club?) Anyway, here's the quandary: Who else do you put No. 1? The Kings didn't make it any easier, losing big style in New Orleans after winning in Dallas, so the Mavs might hang on by default Tuesday. The committee is still deliberating there.
Am I the only person who agrees with my favorite team's ranking (New Jersey) every single week?
1hMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo
4dIan O'Connor, ESPN Senior Writer