Now a month into the season, teams can no longer use that old, 'working our way into basketball shape' argument for not playing well. Conditioning is always an issue, lockout or no lockout. But it's clear that many players either didn't work as hard as they could during the lockout, or shut it down when the union de-certified. That has been a factor for a number of teams, including the Boston Celtics, to struggle early on this season. But the teams that were unexpectedly sluggish like the C's, have since found their stride and clearly are playing better. At the opposite end of that spectrum is Orlando, a team that came in great shape physically.
That's another story.
Dwight Howard telling the Magic that he's open to being traded didn't seem to phase Orlando at all. But it's clearly an issue now. League sources say that Howard's demand combined with his regression offensively - he has gone away from the moves he added to his game last year, and is now reverted back to just being a power player - has had a domino effect on the team's psyche.
How else do you explain a team that won 11 of its first 15 games, all of a sudden dropping four straight and five of its last six, primarily to teams at or below-.500?
But as bad as Orlando has played, no worries Magic fans.
There are teams, lots of 'em actually, that are far worst off.
And with that, we have this week's rankings.