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Salary-cap moves unlikely to alter NBA landscape

The NBA is not a league that likes to sit still. Over the past few days we've seen two big trades in New York (Jamal Crawford for Golden State's Al Harrington, and Zach Randolph for the L.A. Clippers' Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas) and coaching changes in Oklahoma City (Scott Brooks for P.J. Carlesimo) and Washington D.C. (Ed Tapscott for Eddie Jordan). Along with the earlier Denver-Detroit swap (Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess), it has been a busy opening four weeks.

Will this recent flurry of activity have much impact on the standings? Probably not. Of the five teams that made moves, only the Clippers (and maybe the Wizards if they ever get healthy) can expect to see dramatic improvement this season -- and even that is no sure thing. As for the top of the league, L.A. and Boston remain head and shoulders above the pack.

This week's high riser: Spurs (No. 13 from 20)
This week's big drop: Pistons (No. 10 from 5)

(All stats and records are through Sunday.)
NBA Power Rankings
1Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 1
Get ready to start hearing talk of 70 wins. Not only are they off to their best start since 2001-'02 (when they began 16-1), but all their victories have been by seven or more points. Meanwhile, none of their next eight opponents has a winning record.
 
2Boston Celtics
Last Week: 2
They downed the Pistons last week to make it two straight this season over their Motown rivals and reassert their dominance of the East. Even better, Rajon Rondo is heating up (15.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists over his last four games) after a somewhat slow start to November.
 
3Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 3
This Summer of LeBron stuff is putting a serious damper on the fun in Cleveland (and it's only going to get worse when the Cavs visit New York on Tuesday night). Can't Cleveland be left alone to enjoy its team's perfect home mark (7-0) and the best overall start to a season since '88-89?
 
4Utah Jazz
Last Week: 6
Utah Jazz (9-5)
Rev up the '57 Chevy! Despite a revolving door of injuries/absences to Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Kyle Korver and others, Jerry Sloan's classic old-school machine was humming (three wins in four games) again heading into a four-game homestand that begins Monday against the Bulls.
 
5Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 4
Losses to the Rockets, Jazz and Lakers over the last 10 days have brought them back to earth a bit. But Shaquille O'Neal (15.4 points, 8.6 rebounds) continues to defy those predictions of his imminent demise, and Leandro Barbosa (death in family) should be back to shore up the bench this week.
 
6Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 12
Despite Carmelo Anthony's mini scoring slump (16.3 points over a recent stretch of six games), they had won five of six to continue their resurgence in the Rockies. Chauncey Billups has given them a defensive presence at the top, and Nene has been holding down the middle.
 
7Houston Rockets
Last Week: 7
Saturday's win at Orlando was their fourth victory in five games as they continue to get by without a fully healthy Tracy McGrady. Still slowed by soreness in his surgically-repaired knee, T-Mac is averaging just 16.3 points (on 41.2 percent shooting) to go with 4.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
 
8Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 10
Watching these guys, one gets the feeling they just need a little time to learn to play together. Greg Oden is chipping in more and more as he gets comfortable, and Rudy Fernandez looks like he could be a big contributor. If Portland ever develops an inside game, it will be scary.
 
9New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 8
Consecutive wins over the Thunder hardly make up for last week's home loss to the Kings, which was also their fifth defeat in seven games. Chris Paul has been doing his thing, but David West, Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson need a wakeup call pronto.
 
10Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 5
They have had some big victories, but Sunday's embarrassing home loss to the Twolves dropped them to 4-5 since Allen Iverson's arrival and shows they still have a long ways to go. At least Antonio McDyess has decided to rejoin his old mates in Motown.
 
11Orlando Magic
Last Week: 11
They missed Hedo Turkoglu (flu) in Saturday's home loss to the Rockets that snapped a five-game win streak. But it marked their third home setback against a quality foe (along with Hawks and Blazers), while they have just one victory over a team with a winning record (Sixers).
 
12Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 9
Three-point shooting has been one of the hidden keys to their surprising start. They led the NBA in that category through Sunday (42.7 percent), with Marvin Williams (51.7), Joe Johnson (42.9), Mike Bibby (42.0), Maurice Evans (49.5) and Flip Murray (34.2) all ringing the bell from downtown.
 
13San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 20
Yes, the schedule has been a bit soft. But you've got to hand it to Tim Duncan & Co. for winning six of nine to stay afloat during the injury absences of Tony Parker (ankle) and Manu Ginobili (ankle surgery). With Ginobili possibly set to return this week, the Spurs appear to have weathered the storm.
 
14Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 19
Now that Mark Cuban has been charged with insider trading, will he be hesitant to play rotisserie GM with his Mavs? Or will he go ahead and free Jerry Stackhouse from his 'house arrest? Either way, Cuban's NBA team has seen its stock soar again with four straight victories following that five-game crash.
 
15Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 13
They downed the Warriors on Sunday to make it five of six and move above .500 for the first time all season, but they really haven't defeated anybody good yet either. Elton Brand & Co. will get a chance to do that this week against the Magic (Wed.) and Celtics (Fri.).
 
16Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 14
Not only did Toronto fans have to watch Vince Carter torch his former Raptors for 39 points in Friday's 129-127 OT home loss, but Jermaine O'Neal strained his knee when he was pulled down on a flagrant foul by Sean Williams. O'Neal had to leave Sunday's loss to the Celtics early.
 
17Miami Heat
Last Week: 15
The good news is they have yet to lose two straight games all season. The bad news is they have only won as many as two straight once. Veteran center Jamaal Magloire is back to help them try to change that on their upcoming five-game Western trip that opens Wednesday at Portland.
 
18Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 18
Michael Redd could be out another week as he continues to recover slowly from that right ankle sprain. At least Ramon Sessions has emerged to help pick up the slack. The 6-3 backup point guard is averaging 15.5 points and 5.5 assists while scoring in double figures in all 13 games in which he has played.
 
19Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 16
Derrick Rose continues to impress, but he can only do so much -- especially with Luol Deng (hamstring) joining Kirk Hinrich (wrist) on the injured list. As a result they fell to 1-3 on their annual "circus" road trip. GM John Paxson has got to be thinking hard about Chris Kaman right now.
 
20Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 17
Rasho Nesterovic has been their unsung hero this season. The veteran 7-footer, acquired from Toronto in the T.J. Ford/Jermaine O'Neal swap, is averaging 11.0 points (on 49.4 percent shooting) to go with 6.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.4 blocks in 29.5 minutes per game.
 
21New Jersey Nets
Last Week: 23
Just when they were starting to feel good after having won four of five, their rivals from across the Hudson River go out and clear a bunch of cap room for their own run at LeBron in 2010. As if that wasn't bad enough, they begin a four-game Western road trip Tuesday at the Lakers.
 
22New York Knicks
Last Week: 22
Lost in all the hoopla over the quest for LeBron is that they actually got back proven veterans who fit coach Mike D'Antoni's system in Harrington, Mobley and Thomas. It should enable New York to stay competitive at least while it waits for the summer of 2010.
 
23Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 21
Hurry back, Kevin Martin (ankle). Without their slender scorer, they had lost six of eight to fall back into the Western nether regions. The only bright spot has been rookie forward Jason Thompson (12.1 points, 7.1 rebounds), who continues to be one of the steals of last June's draft.
 
24Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 27
They got a "Brand name" replacement at power forward in Randolph. He should fit nicely into Mike Dunleavy's post-oriented scheme, and join with Baron Davis to give L.A. a solid 1-2 punch. The question now is how long it will take to mesh, and whether L.A. will deal Kaman for a scoring shooting guard.
 
25Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 26
Crawford should help shore up their backcourt until Monta Ellis gets back, but even Don Nelson can't win with all guards and no big men. Unless Brandan Wright and Anthony Randolph grow up in a hurry, the Warriors are going to have "big" problems.
 
26Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 24
Larry Brown would probably love to have Kaman, which would enable Emeka Okafor to play his more natural position at power forward. But do they have anything the Clippers might want? And if they were to get the free-spirited Kaman, how long would it take for Brown to want to get rid of him?
 
27Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 25
Saturday's home loss to the Jazz was their sixth in seven games as they continue to struggle after a promising 3-3 start. It also marked the first of a weird four-game stretch for the Grizzlies in which they must face Utah again on Wednesday in between a home-and-home with the Spurs.
 
28Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 30
T'wolves owner Glen Taylor recently declared coach Randy Wittman's job safe ?- and that was before Sunday's shocking 26-point victory at Detroit. With two victories in three games (Minnesota also defeated the Sixers last week), Wittman might be due for a contract extension.
 
29Washington Wizards
Last Week: 28
Gilbert Arenas got the wax. Jordan got the ax. That about sums up the dismal week in D.C., where Arenas got a figure at Madame Tussaud's ?- then helped seal his coach's fate by saying the Wizards might be better off losing the rest of their games and getting the No. 1 pick in the draft.
 
30Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 29
Carlesimo gets the 2008-09 Ziggy Award as the first coach to be fired. His prize is that he no longer has to watch Johan Petro and Mouhamed Sene try to score in the post. Brooks gets that treat now, at least until Avery Johnson takes over next season.
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