Updated: Dec. 2, 2006, 2:44 AM ET

30 things to be thankful for

No matter who you root for, and no matter how many bad losses your favorite team has had the first three weeks, there are reasons to give thanks.

Don't believe it? OK, let's see ...

Utah (11-1): No, it's not that your new building is named for a nuclear waste company, as heartwarming (or something-warming) as that sounds. It's that super soph Deron Williams and rookie Paul "The Mailman Always Rings Twice" Millsap of La. Tech are evoking legitimate comparisons to Stockton and Malone ... and they might be only the fourth- and fifth-best players on the team.

San Antonio (10-2): 2007 is an odd number, after the title years of 1999, 2003 and 2005. And, what do you know, Fabio (Fabricio Oberto) can play a little.

L.A. Lakers (8-3): The Lake Show is running on more cylinders than anyone except diehards imagined, even with Kobe bent (but not broken). If Ronny can rub off on Kwame (or just steal his minutes), Shaq might have to hand the trophy back to his old pals.

Cleveland (8-4): The Cavs are winning big without big contributions from Hughes and Z. In November, that's something to be thankful for. In April, it will be something to be worried about.

Houston (8-4): They're a little dull, sure, but their stars are as likable as any group in the league -- Yao, a standard-bearer for a billion folks; Tracy, known as a good dude; and Shane, the ultimate glue guy. On top of that, they might even win a playoff series this year ... and give Clutch City fans reason to dream of more.

New Orleans/Oklahoma City (8-4): There is one man who keeps the Hornets from being the most nondescript and perhaps dismal team in the league. Thank you, CP3.

Orlando (8-4): They're well-positioned to inherit the Southeast Division from their downstate rivals, and they might just earn it. You know about Dwight Howard and Grant Hill, but it's also guys like Jameer Nelson, Carlos Arroyo, Darko Milicic and Trevor Ariza that make the Magic Bus go.

Dallas (7-4): Who has the longest winning streak in the NBA? The 0-4 start should live in the Mavs' memory long enough to keep them churning. When Josh Howard returns, expect them to join the juggernaut Jazz and steady Spurs in the West elite.

Denver (6-4): Chaos abounds, but at least part of it is intentional -- the Nuggets are playing an up-and-down brand of speedball not even the Suns and Warriors can touch, as their astounding Pace Factor shows.

L.A. Clippers (6-4): This star-crossed franchise is star-studded for a change, and starved Clippers fans deserve this feast of good play and good fortune. But a troublesome sign is that they also need to be thankful for home cookin' -- the Clips have played only three road games, with all six wins coming at home.

Detroit (7-5): The bad news is that the recently mighty Pistons have started slowly and still have no bench. The good news is that starting five have all outplayed Ben Wallace.

Golden State (7-5): Amazing buzz out of Oakland, considering the 12-year playoff drought. Why? Pick a reason for the season -- the return of Nellie Ball, the rebirth of Baron, the emergence of Pietrus, the competence of Dunleavy, the energy of Andris, the mighty mouse moxie of Monta.

Indiana (6-6): Pacers fans, battered by three seasons of surprises, never know what will happen next. Which also means, yes, that a dark horse this talented might continue to underachieve ... or race to the East title.

Sacramento (5-5): Short-term, Kings fans can be thankful their team has some nice pieces, they're contending for a playoff spot and Ron-Ron has remained sane. Long-term, local fans can be grateful David Stern appears to be sincere in his efforts to keep the Kings in Sacto.

Portland (6-7): As any Blazers fan will tell you, Portland has a great Rookie of the Year candidate. Turns out, though, that his last name isn't R-O-Y, it's A-L-D-R-I-D-G-E. That's LaMarcus to his mom.

Seattle (6-7): The Sonics are still here, so there's one blessing to count. Another is Luke Ridnour, who is rewarding the team's faith and contract extension with heady play.

New Jersey (5-6): Caught between the East title years and whatever is around the corner, fans need to enjoy the moment -- the genius of Kidd and Carter, the telecast team of Marv and Mark, and the hope that the Nets can catch fire and contend.

Phoenix (5-6): Let's see ... Amare is back (more or less), Diaw is looking better, Nash has returned from back spasms, Bell can only improve, Barbosa is still on the rise, the roster is deeper than ever, the schedule has been brutal, the losses have been close, and they've won four of five. In other words, the Suns should feel about as good as a sub-.500 team can feel.

Atlanta (4-5): Can't say enough about Joe, Josh, Josh and Zaza (and maybe Marvin). Shouldn't say much about the rest. As one who grew up a fan of the Hawks (Fast Eddie Johnson, Dan Roundfield, Dominique), I can only hope this Frustration Phase isn't forever.

Minnesota (4-6): Well, Kevin Garnett's trade value is higher than it will ever be again. So you have that going for you.

Boston (4-7): Celtics fans should just try to enjoy the ride, if they can stand the vertigo (maybe Doc Rivers can prescribe something for that) and ever-shifting rotations (for that, too). Really, does anyone know what to expect night to night from a team that in 11 games has had two three-game losing streaks and a three-game winning streak?

Philadelphia (4-7): If the Answer can keep his teeth in his mouth, and if Samuel Dalembert and Shavlik Randolph can continue making noise inside, maybe they can drown out Chris Webber's whining and keep the Sixers afloat in the Titanic Division.

Miami (4-7): Well, at least the weather is nice. As temperatures plummet across the nation, Miami will stay sunny and 75 for the next two months while Heat fans wait for Shaq to return from knee surgery. That's all we have to say about that.

Washington (4-7): We would talk about you-know-who, but he thrives on disrespect, so we'll throw him zero mentions. And we love the creativity of Antawn Jamison. But really Wiz nuts should be thankful for the apparent implosion of the Heat, allowing the Wizards to keep their Southeast dreams alive despite the rocky start.

Milwaukee (4-8): Michael Redd, Mo Williams, Andrew Bogut and company can really put on a show. And who cares about defense anyway?

New York (4-9): Isiah Thomas is in his final year, save a stay of execution from Knicks owner Jim Dolan. And Isiah's roster, while a mess, has tremendous role players, especially Nate Robinson and David Lee (the 11th most efficient player in the league so far). So count on some excitement ... and count the days until Zeke departs.

Charlotte (3-8): Can a player win Rookie of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year in just three seasons? The amazing Emeka Okafor is trying to find out. And 'Cats fans can hope that Wednesday's version of Adam Morrison (26, 4 and 2) was the real deal.

Chicago (3-8): The Bulls can be thankful for a very talented roster, their upcoming lottery pick from the Knicks and a 42-point blowout of the Heat. And that Tyson Chandler is outrebounding Ben Wallace. Oh, wait ...

Toronto (3-8): Canada's Thanksgiving was in October, when the Raptors were 7-1. So Rap fans should pray that the NBA allows them to count those Ws, because that might be the only way the team reaches 10 wins before Christmas. But if you're looking for light at the end of the tunnel, Wednesday's win over East-leading Cleveland was a move in the right direction. (And we do love Chris Bosh.)

Memphis (2-9): Only two categories of people aren't excited about dynamic youngsters Hakim Warrick, Lawrence Roberts, Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry -- (1) people who aren't watching the Grizzlies play and (2) folks named Mike Fratello. The Memphis coach is wary of youngsters, wary of losing control and wary of losing, period. Which means he's more likely to coach his way (slowing the game down, keeping every game close) than to keep his job for much longer.

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Happy Stache
Cedric Simmons
Gregory Shamus/NBAE via Getty Images
Adam Morrison had plenty of reasons to smile on Wednesday. He had his best game as a pro, and Gonzaga upset North Carolina.


Here's Looking At Utah

Joseph (Rexburg, Idaho): I am a 21-year-old Mormon from Idaho. A Mormon is the new leader of the senate, another might run for president, Boise State is going to the Fiesta Bowl, there are two WAC teams in the top 25, BYU is nationally ranked and won the Mountain West and my Utah Jazz are at the top of your Power Rankings, proving hard work and good attitudes do pay off. Now try to tell me something to make my day suck.

Committee's counter: Relax, Joseph. Won't even try to burst your bubble. Enjoy the moment. Happy holidays.

See Marc Stein's blog for more reader comments



See Ya, C's

With its victory over Miami, San Antonio replaced Boston as the team with the second-highest all-time regular-season winning percentage among current NBA teams, behind the Lakers.

With the exception of brief appearances by upstart franchises within the first week of their inaugural season (Vancouver and Toronto, both in 1995, and Orlando six years earlier), the Lakers and Celtics have ranked one-two (in either order) in all-time winning percentage for current NBA franchises since March 30, 1988, when a Bucks loss dropped them below the Lakers into the third spot in the all-time league standings.

The top five teams:
1. Lakers (2,814-1,762, .615, including Minneapolis Lakers)
2. Spurs (1,445-995, .5922)
3. Celtics (2,774-1,912, .5919)
4. Suns (1,703 -1,392, .550)
5. 76ers (2,430-2,081, .539, including Syracuse Nationals)

More Elias




Big Comeback For Jazz, Booz

Carlos Boozer (32 and 13) did it again



D-How Shows How
Nash and Biedrins
Rocky Widner//NBAE via Getty Images
Orlando's Dwight Howard, the league's best boardman (14 rpg), demonstrates his technique to Indiana's Stephen Jackson.



Extreme Behavior
Andre Iguodala

Wednesday's Best
Sixers forward Andre Iguodala: Iggy Pop had 18 points, 16 boards, 10 assists and three steals ... and the Bucks still pulled it out. No matter what Andre's amazing feats -- in a game or a dunk contest -- he just can't win.

Deshawn Stevenson

Wednesday's Worst
Wizards guard Deshawn Stevenson: Deshawn's no-show night, with zero points (0-for-7) and as many turnovers (3) as rebounds, assists and steals combined, was costly in the 86-82 loss to Houston.

Quotes of the Day
"This was an embarrassing effort on our part."
-- Celtics coach Doc Rivers, after Boston's 92-83 loss in Charlotte.

"In the second quarter we just stopped playing, we got frustrated. We went from competing in the first quarter to stop communicating with each other and then we started to complain. And then we got disgusted of ourselves and then we went from disgusting to discouraging to despicable."
-- Heat coach Pat Riley, after Miami's 106-86 loss in San Antonio.

"We just don't have any respect for winning."
-- Heat forward Udonis Haslem.

See how all 258 who played stacked up

-- Royce Webb



Observation Deck

HOLIDAY BOOZ: If your holiday discussions at the dinner table evolve into listing possible NBA MVP candidates, be the smart one and argue on behalf of Carlos Boozer. -- David Thorpe

FRISKY FRISCO: Francisco Garcia has struggled to earn a consistent spot in the Kings rotation largely because of poor shot selection, but he is an excellent perimeter defender who gets his hands on a lot of passes and shots. The Kings need him to be a solid role player on what is a pretty thin bench. -- Thorpe

PRICE WAS RIGHT: Ronnie Price's 11-point third quarter in place of an injured Mike Bibby was huge. But his left-handed "and 1" dunk over Carlos Boozer is the young season's reigning dunk of the year. -- Thorpe

TINY TIM: Doesn't feel quite right taking a shot at Tim Duncan's spring on a night they're playing a Heat team that can't keep up with anyone ... but I'm pretty sure that was no mirage. I did see Duncan hit nothing but front rim on a dunk try, didn't I? -- Marc Stein

JUNK THE JUMP: Wondering if the NBA should go to alternating possession on the jump ball.

For one thing, NBA refs frequently botch the toss. It goes left or right, too high or not high enough, giving an advantage to one team over the other.

And then there's the quick tip. A lot of players quick tip or steal the jump, but officials rarely enforce this violation.

Alternating possession would eliminate these problems, plus move the game along more quickly. -- Chris Ramsay



Chatting With Coach Thorpe
David Thorpe

Chris (Los Angeles): As a Bulls fan, I'm completely frustrated with how this season has begun. Can you please write something that will lift my spirits for Thanksgiving tomorrow? I need to know things will be alright in Bulls land.

David Thorpe: There is too much talent in Chicago to struggle all year. Either a deal, or more improved play, will occur. It is still early. Feel better?

JPC (Mile High City): Glad you've joined ESPN's staff ... really enjoy your commentary. Any thoughts on J.R. Smiths performance last night?

David Thorpe: You may not like me after this. I am still not buying Smith until he grows up and becomes a pro. He's too high maintenance off the court, and a bit of a baby on the court. Immensely talented, though.

Steve (Toronto): If you were hired by Brian Colangelo to work with Andrea Bargnani, what aspects of his game would you focus on?

David Thorpe: I think he needs to define his game right now for the season. Limit his offensive options and perfect those he keeps. Work at not fouling so often. And beasting it in the paint.

One chat, 90 questions and answers



News And Notes

Orlando rookie J.J. Redick was active for his second game this season, but again did not play.

Morris Peterson was scratched because of a slightly torn muscle in his left elbow, ending the longest consecutive games streak in the NBA. Peterson played in 370 straight games since Feb. 12, 2002. The elbow has bothered him for more than a week and an MRI on Wednesday showed the slight tear. He's listed as day to day.

Andre Iguodala's only other triple-double was in his rookie season, when he had 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against Detroit on March 23, 2005.

The Knicks are 0-8 when scoring fewer than 100 points.

Rockets forward Chuck Hayes started for the first time since bruising his left knee in a collision with Shaquille O'Neal on Nov. 12. Hayes had six points and three rebounds.

Suns guard Leandro Barbosa sprained his left ankle with 8:33 remaining in the second quarter and did not return. He is day to day.

Utah guard Gordan Giricek had missed the previous six games with an Achilles' tendon injury. He shot 1-of-6 and scored two points in 16 minutes.

Back spasms continue to bother Ron Artest, who did not start the second half but later entered the game after getting locker room treatment during the second period.

Ray Allen increased his career point total to 15,844, passing Jack Twyman into 79th place all-time. Next on the list is "Pistol" Pete Maravich at 15,948.

-- Associated Press

 

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