By Keith Antigiovanni
There is a logjam in the highly competitive Western Conference four weeks into the 2011-2012 season.
The West has 10 teams over .500 and only eight will qualify for the playoffs in April.
The perennial playoff contending San Antonio Spurs (12-7) are in first-place in the Southwest despite Manu Ginobli's absence due to injury the past three weeks. Ginobli will be back in three weeks while the Spurs try to stay in contention.The defending NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks (11-8) have gotten off to slow a start and are a game behind the Spurs. The Memphis Grizzlies (10-7) also trail San Antonio by a game. The Houston Rockets (10-8) are in fourth place.
The Oklahoma City Thunder lead the Northwest and West overall with a 15-3 record followed by the Denver Nuggets (12-5), Utah Jazz (10-5) and Portland Trail Blazers (11-7). Oklahoma City is coming off an appearance in the Western Finals last year.
The Los Angeles Clippers (9-5) lead the Pacific thanks to the Chris Paul trade followed by the Los Angeles Lakers (10-8) who are also off to a slow start. The Lakers are in their first year under former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown.
The Eastern Conference is not as competitive so far with the Miami Heat (13-5) leading the Southeast followed by the Orlando Magic (12-5) and Atlanta Hawks (12-6). Miami is trying to get back to the Finals after their falling to the Mavericks in six game the previous year.
The Chicago Bulls (16-4) lead the Central followed by the Indiana Pacers (12-5). Like the Thunder, Chicago is also trying to get back to the conference finals and is off to a fast start.
The Philadelphia 76ers (12-6) lead the Atlantic over the struggling Boston Celtics (7-9) and New York Knicks (7-11).