Updated: Nov. 27, 2005, 11:05 PM ET

Five orders of flounder

By Greg Anthony
ESPN Insider

The season is young yet, but some trends are already pretty clear. So let's recognize five teams that are the biggest surprises, and the five that have not yet lived up to their advance billing.

1. Houston Rockets: The moves they made don't seem to have panned out. Still waiting for Yao Ming to go to the next level. With Tracy McGrady not at 100 percent, they're struggling to find offense. And they're not the same defensively. Who'd have thought they'd be 3-7 after 10 games?

2. Sacramento Kings: A team that obviously has questions about its personnel and its style. Now with Mike Bibby and Peja Stojakovic being both their best players and their leaders, I'm not sure if they're suited for their roles. This used to be a great passing team. And they're still poor on the defensive end. They still need to establish an identity.

3. New Jersey Nets: In terms of their one through three of Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter, they're as good if not better than anyone else. But I'd like to see those three play better together. And the frontline is lacking. That's what's going to keep them from competing with the elite in the East.

4. Orlando Magic: They don't have a horrible record, but they're 1-4 at home. Steve Francis is up and down. Dwight Howard needs to become more consistent. They've got to figure out what they're going to do with their shooting guard.

5. Miami Heat: A team with tremendously high expectations, but the loss of Shaq has it reeling. I've been impressed with Alonzo Mourning, but the reality is this is a team built around Shaq and Dwyane Wade. They're really just not clicking now.

1. Los Angeles Clippers: They continue to play great basketball, and they're more than just Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley. Elton Brand has taken his game to a new level, playing with great passion. They have the luxury of bringing Corey Maggette off the bench. But can Cassell and Mobley do it for whole season? Sam's not getting any younger.

2. Milwaukee Bucks: Another team that started pretty fast. I like the chemistry of this team, but I would like to see it get a little better defensively. T.J. Ford and Maurice Williams are a solid 1-2 at the point. Bobby Simmons is probably their best all-around player. Can his defensive personality have an effect on the team as a whole? If so, they have a good chance to make the playoffs.

3. Golden State Warriors: Another team with a tremendous perimeter game with Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy and Baron Davis. The question is, can they establish an interior presence offensively and defensively? That's going to be huge with them moving forward.

4. Memphis Grizzlies: Pau Gasol continues to get better. You could argue that they're better this year at the point with Damon Stoudamire and Bobby Jackson. Those are two guys who have been around winning situations a long time. They're a team that gets very comfortable playing winning basketball.

5. New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets: I think Byron Scott is coach of the year. I'm a big, big fan of Chris Paul. I've really been impressed with his patience and quick learning. I don't know if they're good enough to continue to play at this level. But it's fun to watch.

Talk back to the Daily Dime gang

Dimes Past: 12-13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19-20 | 21

Utah Homecoming A Real Grabber
AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac
Bucks rookie Andrew Bogut was greeted like a hero upon his return to Utah, where he starred for the Utes last year. Jazz center Greg Ostertag embraced his way to 10 rebounds in a 100-80 win.

Power Rankings: Reaction Play

Here are some choice responses to Marc Stein's latest power rankings:

I know you are probably going to get 100 exact copies of this e-mail, but how can Dallas be below San Antonio and Detroit when they soundly handled both of them? Even though both games were in Dallas and even though the Spurs and Pistons were finishing back-to-backs, Dallas didn't give either team much of a chance. Maybe it is just wishful thinking, but I think the Mavs deserve a little more respect. Especially from you, Stein!
-- Mike (Dallas)

Dallas beats San Antonio and Detroit by 19 and by 37, with three players missing. I see you have your Pistons jersey on again this year.
-- Keith Buohl (Bridgewater, Mass.)

I understand that the Cavs have a great record and that you can only win the games you're scheduled to play. But can we hold off on ranking them No. 5 until they beat someone of substance? So far, the only playoff-caliber team they've beaten is Washington -- and maybe Philly. So maybe we should wait until they've played Detroit, Indiana or Miami.
-- Jeff Diamond (Midlothian, Va.)

Much like the knee-jerk fans who were calling for Adelman's job, and calling for Bibby and Peja to be traded when the Kings started 1-4, I am going to overreact to your low assessment (No. 21). I believe you are basing it on record and not talent level. I guarantee you that the Kings will win more than 47 games this year, in what I believe is the most watered-down NBA in a while in terms of elite teams.
-- Sactown

The Nets are SEVEN spots below the Wizards? The two teams have identical records, the Nets just beat the Wizards and the Nets have won two straight while Washington has lost three straight. You're just not paying attention.
-- Chris (Bronx, N.Y.)

See Stein's Week 3 power rankings

Intelligence Report

Marbury: Story Blown Out Of Proportion
"Five days after expressing frustration with his role in Brown's offense, Stephon Marbury told reporters yesterday that two New York tabloids were responsible for blowing the story out of proportion by claiming that Marbury and Brown were feuding. 'There's no problem,' Marbury said. 'That was (two reporters) that need a story. I love playing for Coach. It's the best thing that ever happened to me as far as being a pro.'" --- New York Daily News

Jones Talks, But Has Little To Say
"The typically loquacious Cavaliers point guard said it's been difficult to keep silent for three weeks during his self-imposed media boycott. But when the question of why he had turned quiet in the first place arose, whether it had anything to do with his role coming off the bench instead of starting, Damon Jones turned silent, once more. 'Next question,' he retorted, the remnants of a faint grin still plastered on his face." --- Cleveland Plain Dealer

Brand Playing Like A MVP
"24.1 points and 10 rebounds a game, both ranking 10th in the league, making him the only player in the top 10 in both categories. Field-goal percentage: 57.1%, good for sixth. Blocked shots: 2.4 a game, eighth. I was all set to hop aboard the Elton Brand All-Star Train when the coach of the Clippers told me I was on the wrong track. 'You can make the jump to MVP,' Mike Dunleavy said. 'If he plays like this & these numbers, they're past All-Star.'" --- Los Angeles Times

Stoudamire And Grizzlies A Good Fit
"When a decision was needed in an instant, Damon Stoudamire chose Memphis over Houston, Indiana and Miami. The Griz sure are tickled to employ a serious and solid point guard. Stoudamire may not enter tonight's game against his former team, the Portland Trail Blazers, with eye-popping numbers. But he has no regrets after leaving his hometown. 'This is a good fit,' Jerry West said of the marriage with Stoudamire." --- Memphis Commercial-Appeal

More NBA Intelligence

Clashing Of The Guards
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
Spurs guard Tony Parker takes it to the hoop, defended by Mike Bibby. The Spurs held off the Peja-less Kings, 96-93.

Extreme Behavior

Monday's Best
Tim Duncan, Spurs forward: His line include 20 points, 16 rebounds, four blocks in the win over Kings. Typical Tim night. Hope he enjoys fans' holding "grow the fro" signs.


Monday's Worst
Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Kings forward: On a night when a struggling team could have used a big, momentum-turning performance against the defending champs, the Sacto newcomer scored 11 points, missing 7-of-10 from the field, and pulled down a paltry five rebounds. Maybe he needs some of that old Vancouver air.


Quote of the Night
"They're having the realization that somebody else can help me or I can help them."
-- Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, whose team was all ears en route to a 100-80 win over the Bucks.

See how all 82 who played stacked up

-- Andrew Ayres

The Garnett Watch
Get ready for the Kevin Garnett trade rumors, the first of which was quickly shot down Sunday by Kevin McHale and Joe Dumars -- even as others maintained it was legit. Both team executives denied there was any truth to talk that made its way around the league over the weekend that the Pistons were willing to ship a package including Rasheed Wallace and Darko Milicic to Minnesota for Garnett.

The future of the 29-year-old eight-time All-Star came into question after Garnett's much-discussed interview Thursday night on TNT. Garnett criticized McHale for his handling of the Timberwolves during the troubled 2004-05 season in which Flip Saunders was fired and McHale took over as head coach.

Dumars insisted he had not been in contact with the Wolves regarding Garnett, and McHale also dismissed the rumor, which came as executives from others teams were trying to gauge whether the Timberwolves would seriously consider dealing the franchise player who has been with Minnesota throughout his entire 10-year NBA career. Team owner Glen Taylor told reporters in Minnesota that Garnett has "never, ever" sought a trade.

See Chris Sheridan's Weblog Insider

Elias Says

Allen Iverson had nine assists Monday, raising his season total to exactly 100. He has never before reached 100 assists in his first 12 games of an NBA season.

In the last 15 years, the only other 76ers player with 100 assists in his first 12 games was Dana Barros in 1994-95.

Elias Sports Bureau | More from Elias Insider

Bears Don't Like Altitude

The Grizzlies haven't won in Denver since Nov. 18, 1997 (16 straight losses since). The NBA has only four longer current road losing streaks for a team against one opponent: The Nuggets have lost 18 straight games at Sacramento, the Bucks have dropped 17 straight at Phoenix and the Cavaliers and the Rockets have each lost 16 straight at San Antonio.

-- ESPN Research

Foul Me, Please

When Spurs center Rasho Nesterovic sank two free throws in Monday's win over the Kings, it marked his first two attempts of the season.

He entered the game having played more than 200 minutes without getting to the stripe. Nesterovic's a career 55 percent free-throw shooter. What's to fear?

So now there's only one player who is averaging more than five points a game and has taken no freebies.

The lack of line time for the Heat's 3-point shooter, James Posey, is a little more understandable. He has attempted only five field goals (out of 33 attempts) that weren't 3s. He's played 160 minutes and is averaging 8.2 ppg.

Best things in life are free. Listen!



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