THE TIMES' RANKINGS

MARK HEISLER'S NBA RANKINGS, COMMENTS (Last week's rank)

*--* IN A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN 1. DALLAS (30-8) Since 0-4 start they're 30-4. At that pace, they would finish 69-13. (1) 2. PHOENIX (28-8) Since 1-5 start they're 27-3. At that pace they would finish 69-13. (2) AGING ROYALTY 3. SAN ANTONIO (27-11) Duncan averaged 22.6 in November, looking like old self, 18 since. (3) JUNIOR ELITE 4. HOUSTON (25-13) At 40, 50 or whatever, Mutombo averages 14 rebounds, 2.5 blocks over eight. (6) 5. LAKERS (24-13) Overachievers find out what happens when they don't bring it all. (5) 6. CLEVELAND (23-13) Meet the new boss: Latest Eastern kingpin being tested on West Coast. (8) 7. UTAH (24-13) Four losses in five games tells brass their young team needs help. (4) ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN PLAYOFFS, ETC. 8. ORLANDO (22-16) For all talk of Howard's domination, only third on Magic in shot attempts.(10) 9. MINNESOTA (19-16) Who woke you up? Blount, career 7.9-point scorer, averages 17 as they go 9-3. (12) 10. DETROIT (21-14) Saunders also didn't like it a bit when Wallace said to wait until playoffs. (9) 11. CHICAGO (21-17) Skiles says No More Mr. Nice Guy as they lose five of six. (7) 12. INDIANA (20-17) Rare case in which players don't like coach and organization backs coach. (13) 13. WASHINGTON (20-16) Since his Million-Dollar Birthday Bash, Arenas is 23 for 74 from the field. (11) 14. MIAMI (17-19) Ron Rothstein for coach of the year: Now 4-1 on Western trip. (23) 15. GOLDEN STATE (18-20) Corey Maggette, anyone? Nelson rips Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy Jr. (14) 16. CLIPPERS (17-20) Good news: back from the dead. Bad news: not that far back. (30) 17. DENVER (17-17) Won three of first four without Anthony, 1-7 since and he's a week away. (17) MEANWHILE, IN THE ATLANTIC RACE 18. TORONTO (17-20) 4-2 since Bosh's return and unlike Nets, they just play basketball. (19) 19. NEW JERSEY (16-20) New York fans don't pay any attention, but New York papers sure do. (18) 20. SACRAMENTO (14-20) Not a good sign: 152-43 at home for last five seasons, now 10-11. (15) 21. NEW YORK (16-22) Not what you'd call promising start to homestand: Lost to Bobcats. (20) 22. MILWAUKEE (16-20) See ya: Mo Williams out for week or two, Michael Redd for month or two. (16) 23. PORTLAND (15-23) Oops: Przybilla, who got $31-million deal, averaging two points, four rebounds. (22) 24. NEW ORLEANS (14-22) Amazingly enough, just won two in a row without Paul, Stojakovic, West, Jackson. (25) 25. SEATTLE (14-25) Bob Hill's so desperate, he's angling for Pistons' 37-year-old Dale Davis. (26) 26. CHARLOTTE (12-23) Who are you again? Matt Carroll averages 19.6 as they go 5-2. (27) 27. MEMPHIS (9-29) Bad news for Clippers: Jerry West says Mike Miller isn't available. (24) 28. ATLANTA (11-23) Oops: If they don't get one of top three draft picks, it goes to Suns. (29) 29. BOSTON (12-24) Agony continues: Pierce's return pushed back a week, Tony Allen hurt. (21) 30. PHILADELPHIA (10-27) All the guys still there want to know if they can get the next buyout. (28)

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