The pieces have come together even faster than the Celtics ever could have expected. With Kevin Garnett playing like an MVP, Rajon Rondo performing capably at point guard and the reserves doing just enough, the Celtics tied the 1959-60 team for the fastest in franchise history to reach 30 victories. At its current pace, Boston has a chance to join the 1995-96 Bulls as the only teams to win at least 70 games.
2 of 10Greg Nelson/SI
Rip City revival
Neither Greg Oden's season-ending knee injury nor a 5-12 start could deter the Trail Blazers, who rallied with a 13-game winning streak behind All-Star hopeful Brandon Roy. That Portland has engineered such a dramatic turnaround with one of the youngest rosters in NBA history makes it all the more impressive.
3 of 10Greg Nelson/SI
The Hornets contended for a playoff spot last season despite myriad injuries. Now healthy, they are challenging for the West's best record while getting off to the best start in franchise history. It's too bad they've made only one national television appearance so far, as it'd be nice for the NBA to shine a light on Chris Paul, who is on pace to become the first player in 15 years to average at least 20 points and 10 assists.
4 of 10David Bergman/SI
Big Apple circus
Pick your favorite dubious moment: Knicks fans giving Isiah Thomas a "pink slip" during a rally outside Madison Square Garden. Isiah's "win or die" comment, or his talk of bringing a championship to New York. Stephon Marbury's abrupt departure from the team after being demoted from the starting lineup. A 104-59 loss to the Celtics in a nationally televised game. And on and on for the Knicks.
5 of 10Bill Frakes/SI
Centers of attention
From Dwight Howard to Andrew Bynum to Chris Kaman to Al Jefferson, young big men are blossoming around the league. Howard's ascension in Orlando has drawn the most attention; the 22-year-old has emerged as an MVP candidate in leading the NBA in rebounding and ranking among the league leaders in blocked shots and scoring.
6 of 10Doug Benc/Getty Images
Two years removed from the first championship in franchise history, the Heat are looking like an expansion team. With a diminished Shaquille O'Neal and banged-up Dwyane Wade, Miami had lost 14 in a row through Jan. 22, just three short of the club record set in 1988-89, when the Heat began the season 0-17 in their, yes, expansion season.
7 of 10John W. McDonough/SI
Flipping the script in Hollywood
This was supposed to be a season of discontent for Kobe Bryant, but instead he's talked of being "happy" with the surprisingly contending Lakers and of the "tight bond" among the players. Both of those assertions could be tested soon as the Lakers, missing promising third-year center Andrew Bynum (knee) and coping with several other injuries, embark on a nine-game road trip Jan. 31.
8 of 10John W. McDonough/SI
Western Conference superiority
While the new beasts of the East, the Celtics, have a comfortable lead in the race for the NBA's best record, the West remains the best conference -- by far. The emergence of teams like the Trail Blazers, Hornets and Lakers to challenge perennial powers such as the Spurs, Mavericks and Suns has left at least 10 playoff-worthy clubs fighting for eight postseason spots. Carlos Boozer and the Jazz, for instance, were on the outside looking in as of Jan. 22, a season after reaching the conference finals.
9 of 10AP
The Beltway boys
Written off after Gilbert Arenas was lost to knee surgery in mid-November, the Wizards won 19 of their first 31 games without their All-NBA guard. Led by Caron Butler (3) and Antawn Jamison (4), with help from DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood, the Wizards are challenging first-place Orlando in the Southeast Division thanks in part to back-to-back victories against the Celtics and a season sweep of the Mavericks.
10 of 10Greg Nelson/SI
Bulls hit the skids
A preseason favorite in the East, the Bulls opened 2-10 and eventually fired coach Scott Skiles on Christmas Eve. Ben Wallace and Kirk Hinrich have been awful, Tyrus Thomas (whom Chicago wanted instead of LaMarcus Aldridge in the 2006 draft) hasn't played much and Ben Gordon only recently rediscovered his shooting stroke. Rookie Joakim Noah at least showed some fire in earning a suspension (extended from one to two games by a player vote) for his confrontation with an assistant coach.
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