- 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. 25. Stein's comments to some of the best responses are also included.
Oh, the agony that we Sonics fans feel. The Bucks made out big-time getting Gary Payton along with Desmond Mason. I'm switching to Folgers. Better bump those Bucks up the rankings, GP is taking them to the playoffs. But you heard it here first: GP is going to the Lakers next season. Phil Jackson needs him and Payton wants that ring so bad. Sorry, Bucks' fans. Enjoy him while you've got him.
Moutain View, CA
STEIN: Thanks for the advance warning, Paul. Always good to know these things before they happen. Impressive that you also managed to come up with a Rank Comment to inflame anti-Laker passions without even bringing up their No. 5 ranking.
I said before that the Blazers were better than the Spurs and I can admit my mistake. The Spurs are rocking. So I have to ask: Why the demotion? They lose one game and the Mavs pass them up? The Mavs had an ugly three-game losing streak in February. Even I, a die-hard Blazers fan, can see the obvious wrong here. Can you?
STEIN: Obviously not, Jeffrey. The view here is that the Mavs earned the top slot with what they did against the Spurs and with a six-game win streak overall, but you won't be surprised to hear that changes at the top are obviously looming next Tuesday.
Pretty good week in the rankings, Marc. But I must throw in my mandatory complaint. Don't be scared: You can rank the Warriors ahead of the Hornets and Bucks. Golden State has a .700 winning percentage out East. Everyone's waiting for a Warriors' collapse, but it ain't going to happen. They're actually a decent team.
STEIN: It's simple. If they keep winning, Warriors keep moving up, and no one is more impressed than I am that Eric Musselman continues to grind wins out of this bunch. Just remember that your Warriors only have 10 games left against the East, which means they better be sturdy in the stretch run against much tougher opposition if they hope to maintain their near-.500 pace.
Even as a Houstonian and Rockets fan, I think ranking them 12th at this stage of the season is a bit much. They've been overrated all season, partly due to the hoopla around Yao. I love the young guy, don't get me wrong, but he's just not ready -- physically and mentally -- for the NBA big-time. The media's high praise only adds undue pressure on the guy and boosts Steve Francis' ego. Coach Rudy Tomjanovich has obvious difficulty to execute his game plans through Francis, and this team is going nowhere the way it constructed.
STEIN: When people write in shredding their own team, that doesn't leave much fun for the committee. So ease up on the Rockets, Harold. You're being way too harsh here. The Rockets still have a shot at No. 8 in the West. Given Houston's lack of depth and veteran leadership and its ongoing search for a consistent power forward and all the issues tied into Yao's transition from the Chinese Basketball Association to the NBA, it's a not a crisis season like people keep saying. Not at all.
What is with you guys? Do you have a grudge against the Knicks or something? Every week you have something bad to say about them, while you credit teams like the Raptors? Give the Knicks a break.
STEIN: I have nothing against the Knicks. Watching a game at Madison Square Garden is still a thrill every time I get a chance -- love the organ, the PA guy, the atmosphere even now in these tough times. It's just that it gets a little old hearing how great it would be if they could sneak into the No. 8 spot in the East when that would be the worst thing that could happen. The Knicks need to be in the lottery, with fingers crossed, hoping they get up high enough to infuse some talented young blood into the organization. As for your Raptors comparison, you should know that Toronto folks largely think the committee is anti-Raps as well, when that also couldn't be farther from the truth. Toronto is one of our five favorite cities on the NBA map. Probably top three, actually. I could go for dinner at Alice Fazooli's as we speak.
Thank God the Pistons moved back down in the Power Rankings. They've made it to No. 2 twice, and both times you've caused them to slide into tailspins. Keep them No. 3 or lower and I'll continue to be happy.
STEIN: Rick Carlisle called and made the same request.
There is no way Philadelphia should be ranked ahead of Boston. Boston has beaten the Sixers two out of three this year, including a large comeback win in Philadelphia. The Sixers' recent success has been against Chicago (two wins), Cleveland (two wins), Memphis, struggling New Jersey and Orlando before its big trade. Once Philadelphia starts playing some quality opponents like the Celtics have recently, I think you'll see a steady decline of Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference standings.
STEIN: Maybe so, Ryan. But in the interim, Philly is pretty much the only top-six team in the East winning consistently these days. Which is worth a little extra when everyone else is faltering. Philly is also doing so amid fears that Todd MacCulloch's career is over and after trade rumors swirled around the team for the first week-plus after the All-Star break. The Sixers have been more impressive than you suggest; now it's the Celtics' turn to show us how they respond to a difficult distraction with Vin Baker going on suspension.
You've done a good job on the rankings this week. Except for San Antonio at No. 2, since the Spurs will be gone before Dallas, Sacramento, Minnesota and the Lakers. And maybe before the Pistons, a team you still overrate.
Mission Viejo, CA
STEIN: The committee attended El Toro High School and thus views any submission from Mission Viejo suspiciously. But if you're saying we only made two mistakes Tuesday … thanks.
10hMarc Stein and Calvin Watkins