By Marty Burns
December 15, 2008

Another few days, another round of coaching changes. This time it was Mo Cheeks and Reggie Theus who were given the pink slip, by the Sixers and Kings, respectively. They join Randy Wittman (Timberwolves), P.J. Carlesimo (Thunder), Eddie Jordan (Wizards) and Sam Mitchell (Raptors) on the list of fired coaches already this season.

Who will be the next coach sent packing? Memphis' Marc Iavaroni could be in trouble, though the Grizzlies have helped him by winning four in a row -- and making the biggest jump of any club in this week's Power Rankings.

This week's high riser: Grizzlies (No. 23 from 30)
This week's big drop: Blazers (No. 9 from 4)

(All stats and records are through Sunday's games.)

NBA Power Rankings
1 Boston Celtics
Last Week: 1
Their 14-game winning streak is four short of the franchise record set in 1981-82. They are also off to the best start in team history. "It all goes out the window if we don't win the championship," said Paul Pierce, whose defending champs will get two good tests this week, against the Jazz (Monday) and at Atlanta (Wednesday).
2 Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 2
Recent road losses at Indiana and Sacramento have taken some of the luster off their otherwise sensational start. Trevor Ariza continues to play a key role, contributing 9.6 points, 5.2 boards, 2.3 assists and 1.9 steals off the bench while playing solid defense on the perimeter.
3 Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 3
They missed Zydrunas Ilgauskas (ankle) in last Friday's loss at Atlanta that snapped their franchise-record-tying 11-game winning streak (during which they outscored foes by an average margin of 19.8 points). Big Z should be back next week for the Cavs, who are the NBA's only unbeaten team at home (13-0).
4 Orlando Magic
Last Week: 9
OK, now we can start taking them seriously. Even without Dwight Howard (sore knee), they won at Utah on Saturday to make it three of four (they also had a win at Portland) on their West Coast road trip with one contest left at Golden State (Monday). They are 9-3 on the road for the season, following an impressive 27-14 road mark a year ago.
5 New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 5
Peja Stojakovic (two points) missed both of his three-point attempts in last Friday's loss at Boston, the first time he was held without a three-pointer in 63 games. But despite Stojakovic's ongoing shooting woes, the Hornets have racked up victories in eight of 10 games, and can build on the momentum Wednesday night when the Spurs visit the Big Easy.
6 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 10
Don't forget Tim Duncan in those early discussions of the MVP award. The 6-11 forward-center is averaging 21.1 points (on 52.7 percent shooting) to go with 10.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 blocks. He helped keep San Antonio afloat during its earlier injury problems, and has had seven straight double-doubles while leading the Spurs to their current six-game winning streak.
7 Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 6
They have won 15 of 19 as the Chauncey Billups trade continues to pay dividends. But Billups will need to be at his best during a brutal upcoming stretch of schedule that features the Mavs, Rockets, Cavs, Suns and Blazers (twice) before Christmas.
8 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 8
Just when Tracy McGrady (knee) returns to the lineup, Ron Artest (ankle) goes out. One of these days they will get their entire starting unit together. In the meantime, they have still managed to record the franchise's best start since the 1996-97 team opened 21-2.
9 Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 4
Last Friday's home loss to the Clippers (in double OT) was their third in a row and fourth in five games. Steve Blake missed four of five free throws, all late in the game, in that loss to the Clips. Going into the game, he had made 31-of-33 for the season.
10 Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 7
A loss to the Spurs ended their four-game winning streak, but they have won 11 of 13 and are 5-1 on their current homestand with one left against the Nuggets (Monday). Dirk Nowitzki (46 points in Saturday's victory against the Thunder) is averaging 32.7 over his last six games.
11 Utah Jazz
Last Week: 12
Utah Jazz (15-10)
So much for their home dominance. They already have dropped four games at EnergySolutions Arena this season, as many as they did all of last year. Meanwhile, they hope to have Carlos Boozer (quad) back as they get set to head out on a five-game Eastern road trip.
12 Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 11
Phoenix Suns (14-10)
Mike D'Antoni won't recognize these guys when the former Suns coach makes his return to the Valley on Monday night. Last week's trade of Raja Bell and Boris Diaw (for Jason Richardson) leaves Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa as the only key members left from D'Antoni's run-and-gun Suns of a few years back.
13 Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 14
Mike Bibby had 24 points to lead the way as they cooled off the Cavs on Saturday night to make it two straight victories after a three-game skid. It also marked the first of an eight-game homestand for the Hawks, who are 8-1 at Philips Arena.
14 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 16
Detroit has won two in a row as first-year coach Michael Curry continues to go with a smaller lineup featuring three guards and Tayshaun Prince at power forward. With Antonio McDyess back in the fold, and seven of their next nine at the Palace, the Pistons now need to start showing some consistency.
15 Miami Heat
Last Week: 15
Miami Heat (12-11)
Back-to-back off nights by Dwyane Wade led to weekend losses to the Hawks and Grizzlies, robbing them of the momentum gained from a four-game winning streak, but coach Erik Spoelstra refused to blame it on the offense. "We've absolutely gotten away from our defensive identity," the Pat Riley disciple said.
16 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 19
Chicago Bulls (11-12)
After seeing their playing time cut in recent games, Tyrus Thomas (16 points) and Joakim Noah (seven points, eight boards) combined to spark the Bulls past the Nets on Saturday. Maybe it's time for Vinny Del Negro to just go with those kids in the frontcourt and let them learn on the job.
17 New Jersey Nets
Last Week: 13
Big week ahead for Vince Carter. First, he gets a rematch with the Raptors (Monday), against whom he scored three points (on 0-for-13 shooting) in a loss last week. Then he meets up with old pal Jason Kidd when the former Nets star makes his long-awaited return to the Izod Center on Friday.
18 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 17
Sunday's home loss to the Hornets left them at 2-4 under new coach Jay Triano as they get set for a six-game Western road swing later this week. Anthony Parker came off the bench for the first time in 176 career games with the Raptors.
19 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 18
Andrew Bogut donated $19,000 to keep an Australian league team afloat last week. He then went out and donated 20 points and 20 rebounds to help his Bucks beat the Pacers on Saturday to snap a three-game losing skid. "Call him Barbara Walters ... 20/20," quipped Michael Redd.
20 New York Knicks
Last Week: 20
Al Harrington sure isn't complaining about the trade that sent him from Golden State to New York. The veteran forward is averaging 25.5 points in his 10 games since arriving in Gotham. Harrington pumped in 33 in Saturday's win at Sacramento, New York's third victory in four games.
21 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 21
Elton Brand had 27 points as they beat the Wizards on Saturday to snap a three-game slide and give Tony DiLeo his first victory as coach. But even those hard-boiled Philly fans had to feel at least a tinge of compassion for the classy Cheeks, one of the franchise's all-time greats.
22 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 23
You knew it wouldn't take long for Larry Brown to start seeking new players. In addition to trading for Bell and Diaw last week, he also signed veteran forward Juwan Howard. It's starting to look as if the Bobcats, losers of six straight, are heading for a Knicks-style makeover.
23 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 30
Who woke up these sleeping bears? They conquered the Heat, Bulls, Thunder and Rockets last week for a four-game winning streak, their longest since the 2005-06 season. Meanwhile, Darius Miles has signed on as the former No. 3 overall pick continues his comeback effort.
24 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 22
As they might say at the Brickyard, the wheels are coming off. Saturday's loss at Milwaukee made it six consecutive defeats and 11 of 13 overall. At least Danny Granger (42 points in Friday's loss at Detroit) is around to provide a glimmer of hope for the future.
25 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 25
Zach Randolph posted back-to-back 30-point outings against the Blazers and Rockets to help the Clippers win back-to-back games for the first time all season. "We've been playing through him," coach Mike Dunleavy said. "He draws a lot of attention."
26 Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 26
They finally snapped that nine-game losing skid with a win over the Thunder, but they were still off to their worst start since 2000-01. Stephen Jackson is trying to play through a hand injury as they prepare for a difficult stretch of 10 of 13 on the road.
27 Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 24
Last Friday's victory against the Lakers didn't buy Theus any time: Saturday's 24-point loss to the Knicks spelled the end of his tenure. Interim coach Kenny Natt faces a brutal upcoming schedule, including a four-game road trip with visits to Portland, Houston, New Orleans and San Antonio.
28 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 27
They fired the coach. They made a trade (Antonio Daniels and a conditional first-round pick for Mike James and Javaris Crittenton). All they can do now is wait for Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood to get back.
29 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 28
The return of Mike Miller (ankle) couldn't prevent their losing skid from reaching nine, including four under new coach Kevin McHale. It marks their longest such streak since a 12-game slide over the end of the 2006-07 and start of the '07-08 seasons.
30 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 29
Maybe it wasn't Carlesimo after all. They have lost seven in a row and 11 of 12 under replacement Scott Brooks. Yet the NBA coaching carousel just keeps spinning ...
Got a different view than Marty?

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