Tracking the NBA by the fives:
Five on the hot seat
1. Isiah Thomas, Knicks: Madison Square Garden chairman Jim Dolan made team president Thomas take over for dismissed coach Larry Brown and put him on notice: Win this season, or you're next.
2. Billy King, Sixers: Fans have been calling the general manager out for three years. But until Ed Snider joins them, it doesn't matter.
3. Mike Fratello, Grizzlies: The Czar is trying to be patient with a very young team, but Pau Gasol's injury and the pending sale of the team make for an uncertain future.
4. The Spalding Ball: The new basketball has been roundly panned by players for its slickness and stickiness. The Commish says it's staying.
5. Seattle City Council: New Sonics owner Clay Bennett, who lives in Oklahoma City, has pledged to keep the team in Seattle - as long as the city ponies up for a new building within the next year. Otherwise, he may have to look at moving the team ... to Oklahoma City.
Five great NBA rivalries
1. Kobe Bryant vs. Raja Bell: Last year's clothesline of Bryant by Bell in the Lakers-Suns first-round playoff series cemented this as the game's best one-on-one matchup. Bryant professes not to care about Bell; Bell says he can't stand Bryant. Good stuff.
2. Heat vs. Complacency: Miami turned it on in the playoffs, but Pat Riley wants them coming out with energy from Day One this season.
3. Ben Wallace vs. Flip Saunders: With $64 million in the bank from Chicago, Wallace now makes no bones about his contempt for his former Pistons coach.
4. Antawn Jamison vs. Vince Carter: They were the league's most celebrated brothers-in-law - in 2004, Carter married Ellen Rucker, whose sister, Ion, had married Jamison in 2003. But the Carters are heading for a divorce.
5. Pacers vs. Common Sense: Stephen Jackson was the latest Indiana Pacer to do something stupid, firing a gun during a fight outside a strip club during training camp.
Five games to mark on your calendar
1. Phoenix at Lakers, tonight - Kobe-Raja, Round 8.
2. Washington at Phoenix, Dec. 22 - Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas, after failing to make the U.S. world championship team, said he would take it out on Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni, who was an assistant on the U.S. team.
3. Miami at Cleveland, Feb. 9 - Dwyane Wade and LeBron James put on a show when they play against one another.
4. Miami at Dallas, Feb. 22 - The Heat return to where they won their first NBA championship.
5. Chicago at Detroit, Feb. 25 - Ben Wallace returns to the place where fans learned to Fear the Fro en route to a title in 2004.
Five to watch (young player edition)
1. SG Kevin Martin, Kings
He's got a terrific stroke and may become a star for the underrated Kings.
2. SG Randy Foye, Timberwolves
You all know how good and tough this kid is. He has a great mentor in Kevin Garnett.
3. PG Rajon Rondo, Celtics
Blistering speed and quickness make the first-round pick a potential star.
4. PG Raymond Felton, Bobcats
Took over late last season and hasn't looked back.
5. PF Jorge Garbajosa, Raptors
First overall pick Andrea Bargnani got all the hype, but this rookie also has game.
Five to watch (fantasy edition)
1. PG Mo Williams, Bucks
With former starter T.J. Ford sent to Toronto, Williams steps into starter's role in Milwaukee.
2. PG Damon Stoudamire, Grizzlies
With Pau Gasol out at least a month to start the season, Memphis can't score. What little offense they'll generate will come from Mighty Mouse.
3. PG Jarrett Jack, Blazers
He's in great shape, and he's now the starter in Portland.
4. SF Steve Novak, Rockets
This former Marquette player is a big-time three-point shooter and figures to get a lot of looks playing off of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.
5. SF Mike Dunleavy, Warriors
Don Nelson is playing him at point forward, which should mean more assists and points.