Recent wins over the Heat and the Lakers breathed life into L.A.'s other team, which had won four of five games through Sunday. Dunkmaster Blake Griffin is proving more than just a highlights sensation: He leads all rookies in points (21.9) and rebounds per game (12.7) and is second in shooting (.515).
West Virginia and St. John's scored a pair of big-time Big East upsets on Sunday: WVU knocked off No. 8 Purdue 68--64 and the Red Storm thrashed No. 9 Notre Dame 72--54, after which Irish coach Mike Brey moaned, "My statement is, St. John's defended the heck out of us."
The Barcelona striker (right) earned his second straight FIFA player of the year award last week after 58 goals in 54 club matches in '10. Quieting complaints that teammates Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez had been snubbed, he netted a hat trick two days later.
Behind Alec Burks, the Big 12's No. 2 scorer (19.7 ppg, right), Colorado has been on a January tear. CU toppled Mizzou (its first win over a Top 10 team since '03) then beat No. 21 K-State and rallied to upend Oklahoma State, cementing its best conference start since 1996--97.
The NFL warned teams last week to curb trash-talking after several not-so-subtle jabs were reported through the media (see Antonio Cromartie, Wes Welker, Nick Mangold). Any chance that talk is done? Not if Jets 'backer Bart Scott's (left) frothing-at-the-mouth, post-win-over-the-Patriots rant is any indication.
Edmonton—ranked 22nd or lower in nearly every stats category—justified its spot in the Western Conference basement with a 3--2 loss to Anaheim, but help is not on the way. Assists leader Ryan Whitney will likely miss the rest of the year due to ankle surgery.
The Pistons (14--26) have spiraled downward all season, alienating fans and players alike. They're 17th in attendance, down from No. 1 in 2008--09; meanwhile, disgruntled guard Rip Hamilton got a third straight DNP Saturday and is rumored to be on the way out.
Well-paid Ravens WRs Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh both bungled crucial fourth-quarter passes in last Saturday's 31--24 loss in Pittsburgh—the former a potential go-ahead TD, the latter a fourth-and-18 heave with 1:09 left. Both balls hit the players' hands.
SI PLAYERS NBA POLL
WILL THERE BE AN NBA SEASON IN 2011--12?
Don't know 3%
On Dec. 15 owners chose not to implement a one-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement, which expires on July 1; they argue that escalating player salaries make it impossible to get out of the red... . If no agreement is reached and owners lock out players, it would mark the first work stoppage (assuming the NFL plays in 2011) in one of the four major U.S. sports leagues since the 2004--05 NHL strike.
Based on 159 NBA players who responded to SI's survey
DAVID BERGMAN (SCOTT)
JEFF GENTNER/AP (WVU)
LLUIS GENE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (MESSI)
JACK DEMPSEY/AP (BURKS)
JENNIFER POTTHEISER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (STERN)
JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (FISHER)