By Chris Mannix
February 22, 2010
NBA Power Rankings
21 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 22
The Clippers have positioned themselves well for the offseason ? dealing Al Thornton and Sebastian Telfair pushed their available cap space to about $16.5 million ? and they may have found a nice point guard rotation for the rest of this season. With Baron Davis (sore back) sidelined, newly acquired Steve Blake chipped in 11 points and 12 assists in 40 minutes in a victory against Sacramento.
22 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 25
Thornton made an impact offensively (21 points) and defensively (helping limited Carmelo to 7-of-20 shooting, including 0-for-5 in the fourth quarter) in his Wizards debut, a 107-97 upset of Denver. It was the defensive contribution that surprised everybody. "It's been a knock on me at times that I don't play any defense," Thornton said.
23 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 21
The Sixers continue to talk playoffs. This upcoming stretch will likely determine if that's possible. Over the next two weeks the 76ers will play just one non-playoff team (Golden State) as they try to close the 6 ½-game gap between them and the eighth-seeded Bobcats.
24 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 23
Offense was supposed to be Indy's biggest strength this season. But the Pacers' field-goal and three-point percentage are down this year, and after scoring 110 points or more 29 times in '08-09, they have topped that mark just nine times this year. "It just hasn't clicked," Mike Dunleavy told the Indianapolis Star. "I don't think people have figured it out. We have certainly made an effort in practice. We spend a high percentage of time in practice working on our offense."
25 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 27
There have been signs of life from Ben Gordon (21 points in a win over San Antonio) and Richard Hamilton (27-plus points in the last three games), good news for a team about to embark on a four-game, six-day West Coast trip. Among teams in the East, only the Nets have fewer road victories than the Pistons' six.
26 New York Knicks
Last Week: 24
Lost in the Tracy McGrady hype is that the Knicks may have found a pretty good point guard in Sergio Rodriguez, who was also acquired at the deadline. Rodriguez, who had six assists in his debut, could be inserted into the starting lineup sometime this week. "Obviously, we're sorely in need of a guy who can get the ball to people and make plays and create a fast tempo," president Donnie Walsh said. "So he's in a situation where if he can do that, this is a good opportunity for him."
27 Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 28
It's Tyreke's team now. The Kings' decision to deal Kevin Martin officially passes the leadership mantle to rookie Tyreke Evans. Fellow rook Omri Casspi figures to benefit from Martin's move; now if he can only find some consistency. Casspi followed up a 15-point effort against the Clippers with a four-point clunker against Phoenix.
28 Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 29
Warriors scribes Marcus Thompson and Geoff Lepper recently assessed Don Nelson's chances of breaking Lenny Wilkens' record for coaching wins. And it ain't pretty for Nellie. Nelson needed 10 wins after the All-Star to set the record. Thompson predicted seven; Lepper counted five. Upsets like Sunday's win over Atlanta, however, should help.
29 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 26
You know you're in dire straights when you're trying to persuade Darko Milicic to come play for you. Milicic, who played sparingly for the Knicks and sometimes didn't bother to show up for games, had his bags packed for Europe before being dealt to the Wolves. Minnesota hopes the 7-1 center can help this season. "I'm hopeful he can at least give it one more shot," general manager David Kahn told reporters after the trade. "Even if he does end up returning to Europe, I'd hope he'd want to end his NBA career on the right note. In our situation, he will no doubt play. No doubt."
30 New Jersey Nets
Last Week: 30
In a rare interview, incoming owner Mikhail Prokhorov declined to comment to the Newark Star-Ledger on the ugly state of his new toy. So will we.
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