Power Rankings: Injuries already forcing change of plans for several teams
All the planning a team does before the season starts can go out the window pretty quickly. And for the Boston Celtics, it did so less than six minutes into the season.
Gordon Hayward’s injury (in addition to being heartbreaking) essentially changes much of what the Boston Celtics were trying to do offensively this season. They’ve lost one of their two primary ball-handlers, one of their best perimeter shooters, and probably their best decision-maker.
“We’re going to try to stay within somewhat of the base we put in,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Friday in Philadelphia, “but we’re going to have to do some significant tweaks with what we’re emphasizing.”
Al Horford has to take on a bigger role in the offense. After Friday’s win, Stevens called Horford’s 16 shots (after 18 total in the first two games) “a good step in the right direction.” And Horford won’t be the only Celtic asked to make plays out of the post.
“We’ll look to play through the post a little bit more at a bunch of different positions,” Stevens said. “And we’ll look to get Kyrie off [the ball] and then back to it. It’ll be something that hopefully we’ll get better at as the season goes along, but there are some things we need to tweak to be the best that we can be.”
For every team, whether they go through significant injuries or not, the season is a continuous evolution on both ends of the floor. The Celtics’ offense can’t undergo a complete overhaul right away, but it will surely look much different in February and March than it does now.
“I imagined that any ways,” Stevens said, “but now I really imagine that.”
Some teams are off to a great start and some need more tweaks than others.
- Last week: Some All-Star combinations will work — and some won’t
- This time last year: Warriors, Cavs poised for third straight Finals meeting — The season hadn’t started yet, but the Warriors had the league’s best preseason record and the Nets were tied for the league’s worst. Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic were starting together in Denver, while point guards Patrick Beverley, Jrue Holiday and Reggie Jackson were all starting the season on the shelf.
- Plus-minus stud: Evan Turner (POR) was a plus-61 in three games in Week 1.
- Plus-minus dud: Eric Bledsoe (PHX) was a minus-71 in three games in Week 1.
- Hero team of the week: Houston (3-0) — The Rockets are the only team with three wins and the first one was an impressive victory at Golden State, where the Warriors were 114-9 over the previous three regular seasons.
- Zero team of the week: Phoenix (0-3) — No effort in the home opener and two losses by more than 40 points is what gets a coach fired.
- East vs. West: The West went 3-2 against the East in Week 1.
- High jumps of the week: Memphis (+10), Indiana (+5), Minnesota (+5), Orlando (+5)
- Free falls of the week: Boston (-9), Dallas (-6), Oklahoma City (-5)
- Team to watch in Week 2: LA Clippers — After walking through the Lakers and Suns in Week 1, the Clips will play some more serious Western Conference competition, hosting the Jazz on Tuesday and visiting Portland on Thursday.
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Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league has averaged 102.7 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.6 points scored per 100 possessions this season.
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NBA.com’s Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man’s opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.
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Last Week: 2 ↑
Pace: 101.3 (17) OffRtg: 108.9 (8) DefRtg: 103.7 (13) NetRtg: +5.2 (9)
Having an All-Star point guard on the floor at all times is out the window until Chris Paul's left knee heals, and the Rockets have scored less than 90 points per 100 possessions in James Harden's 39 minutes on the bench, in part because the team that has taken more than half its shots from 3-point range ranks 27th in 3-point percentage. Eric Gordon hasn't settled though, getting to the rim and to the line more than Harden, with some spectacular results.
Week 2: vs. MEM, @ PHI, @ CHA, @ MEM
Last Week: 3 ↑
Pace: 97.1 (26) OffRtg: 100.3 (19) DefRtg: 90.2 (3) NetRtg: +10.1 (5)
LaMarcus Aldridge has thus far made the Spurs look smart for giving him an unexpected contract extension on Monday, averaging 26.5 points and 10.0 rebounds in the team's first two wins. He has 10 more post-up points than anyone in the league and is still living in the mid-range, but has been able to shoulder the load in the absence of Kawhi Leonard. They haven't been able to score with Aldridge off the floor, but are now 16-4 in the regular season without Leonard over the last two years.
Week 2: vs. TOR, @ MIA, @ ORL, @ IND
Last Week: 1 ↓
Pace: 104.9 (12) OffRtg: 113.3 (3) DefRtg: 110.2 (28) NetRtg: +3.1 (12)
We shouldn't put much into opening-night results and Draymond Green's absence was critical, but it's worth putting in our collective memory bank that P.J. Tucker's go-ahead free throws on Tuesday came after the Warriors failed to grab two defensive rebounds and were two of Houston's 18 second-chance points. The rebounding was better on Saturday, but partly because the Grizzlies got to the line 37 times. Simply, the Warriors' defense has not been to their standards. Only twice last season did they allow more than 110 points per 100 possessions over three games.
Week 2: @ DAL, vs. TOR, vs. WAS, vs. DET
Last Week: 9 ↑
Pace: 99.6 (22) OffRtg: 104.8 (14) DefRtg: 106.4 (19) NetRtg: -1.6 (17)
The Wolves won the weekend Minnesota-OKC-Utah round-robin, thanks to a tough game-winner from Jamal Crawford against the Jazz on Friday and Andrew Wiggins' long-distance bank-shot on Sunday. After their 15-30 record in games that were within five points in the last five minutes last season (when only the Nets and Lakers were worse in clutch situations), they had some late-game fortune coming their way. Jeff Teague was apparently good enough to be on the floor late in those games after watching Tyus Jones down the stretch of Wednesday's loss in San Antonio. Karl-Anthony Towns' defense is still a major issue, but Wiggins' ability to succeed off the ball and add variety to his offense has been a big positive.
Week 2: vs. IND, @ DET, vs. OKC
Last Week: 4 ↓
Pace: 99.4 (24) OffRtg: 103.2 (17) DefRtg: 105.1 (15) NetRtg: -1.9 (18)
LeBron James is "out of shape," their starting lineup is a minus-8 in 27 minutes together, they're taking far fewer 3-pointers than they have in the past (no team has seen a bigger decrease in 3PA/FGA -- from 40 percent last season to 29 percent in their first three games), Derrick Rose is already banged up, and they didn't come out ready to defend against Orlando on Saturday. But the Cavs are still 2-1, despite Kevin Love and J.R. Smith combining to shoot 3-for-25 from beyond the arc, and their next five games are against teams that are a combined 4-9 so far.
Week 2: vs. CHI, @ BKN, @ NOP, vs. NYK
Last Week: 16 ↑
Pace: 99.6 (23) OffRtg: 105.6 (13) DefRtg: 98.1 (9) NetRtg: +7.5 (6)
The Grizzlies' six wins (including postseason) against the Warriors in coach Steve Kerr's three-plus seasons with Golden State are the most for any Western Conference team. Defense has been the key to that success (only Boston and Philly have held the Warriors to fewer points per 100 possessions in that time) and on Saturday, they held Warriors not named Curry or Durant to just 30 percent shooting. They lost to JaMychal Green to an ankle injury in the first quarter of their first game, but have gotten good minutes from their reserves, including rookie Dillon Brooks, who had 19 points and four steals in Wednesday's win over New Orleans.
Week 2: @ HOU, @ DAL, vs. DAL, vs. HOU
Last Week: 7
Pace: 105.3 (11) OffRtg: 112.9 (4) DefRtg: 106.0 (18) NetRtg: +6.9 (7)
New season, same bench issues for the Wizards, forcing them to go down to the final minute against two inferior opponents (Philly and Detroit) at home. After Week 1, every player that started one of their two games has a positive plus-minus, while the four players who came off the bench in both games are no better than a minus-11. John Wall and Bradley Beal have combined for a free throw rate of 57 attempts per 100 shots from the field (up from 32 last season), but coach Scott Brooks isn't staggering their minutes, and the Wiz have been outscored by 16 points in 21 minutes with neither starting guard on the floor.
Week 2: @ DEN, @ LAL, @ GSW, @ SAC
Last Week: 8
Pace: 106.5 (7) OffRtg: 116.9 (1) DefRtg: 89.7 (2) NetRtg: +27.2 (1)
It's nothing new that the Raptors have great bench numbers (they lead the league in aggregate bench NetRtg after Week 1). What is new is that their go-to bench unit doesn't include Cory Joseph (now in Indiana), Patrick Patterson (now in Oklahoma City) or Kyle Lowry. Another big change in Toronto (in addition to more 3-point attempts and better passing) is that coach Dwane Casey isn't staggering the minutes of Lowry and DeMar DeRozan much, instead using a five-man bench unit -- C.J. Miles and four guys who had played in no more than 54 games prior to this season -- that is a plus-16 in its first 21 minutes together. After games against the Bulls and Embiid-less Sixers, the schedule gets a little tougher this week.
Week 2: @ SAS, @ GSW, @ LAL
Last Week: 12 ↑
Pace: 96.6 (28) OffRtg: 103.4 (16) DefRtg: 97.2 (6) NetRtg: +6.2 (8)
The league's best shooter (among players who took at least 25 shots) in Week 1 was Joe Ingles, who had an effective field goal percentage of 84.6 percent in Utah's first three games. The league's worst shooter in Week 1 was Donovan Mitchell (20.0 percent). The good has outweighed the bad (Mitchell has shown some playmaking skills) and the Jazz offense was efficient enough to pick up important wins against Denver and Oklahoma City. Of course, the defense did the heavy lifting, Ekpe Udoh gives them a second elite shot blocker, and they held both of those teams (expected to be top-10 offenses) under a point per possession.
Week 2: @ LAC, @ PHX, vs. LAL
Last Week: 10
Pace: 106.7 (5) OffRtg: 111.3 (7) DefRtg: 84.6 (1) NetRtg: +26.7 (2)
It's tough to glean much from games against the Lakers and Suns, but the Clippers should be a good team in transition. Even with Milos Teodosic out indefinitely with a left foot injury, they have four guys in the starting lineup that can grab a rebound, push the ball up the floor, and pass it pretty well (with a big man who runs pretty fast and jumps pretty high). They won't have the league's No. 1 defense all season, but a top-10 ranking on that end of the floor would make a difference on the other end. Games this week against Utah and Portland should tell us a lot more about what this team can be both offensively and defensively.
Week 2: vs. UTA, @ POR, vs. DET
Last Week: 6 ↓
Pace: 101.5 (16) OffRtg: 99.3 (21) DefRtg: 97.5 (7) NetRtg: +1.9 (15)
Russell Westbrook has been taking fewer shots than his star teammates and is averaging a league-high 11.7 assists, but was ready to take over when Sunday's game against Minnesota went down to the wire. He shot 4-for-5 in the clutch, one of the only times the OKC offense was good last week. As the big three try to work things out, Steven Adams' value on both ends of the floor becomes even more apparent. Of course, figuring out who should be the fifth guy on the floor down the stretch (it was Raymond Felton on Sunday) is another challenge for coach Billy Donovan.
Week 2: vs. IND, @ MIN, @ CHI
Last Week: 14 ↑
Pace: 98.6 (25) OffRtg: 108.7 (9) DefRtg: 109.0 (24) NetRtg: -0.3 (16)
Shooting is the most important skill in basketball ... a fact that makes Giannis Antetokounmpo that more amazing. He's averaging a league-high 38.3 points having made exactly four shots from outside of nine feet. He capped Saturday's performance (a career-high 44 points on 17-for-23 shooting) by stealing the ball from Damian Lillard, stealing the ball from C.J. McCollum, flying down the floor for the go-ahead dunk, and blocking Jusuf Nurkic at the rim ... all in the final minute. John Henson getting all the Bucks' clutch-time minutes at center ahead of both Thon Maker and Greg Monroe is a bit of surprise.
Week 2: vs. CHA, vs. BOS, @ ATL
Last Week: 13
Pace: 101.0 (18) OffRtg: 114.4 (2) DefRtg: 94.5 (5) NetRtg: +19.9 (3)
The Blazers lost just one of the 12 quarters they played last week, but that was good for just a 2-1 record, because Antetokounmpo shut them down in the final minute on Saturday. The opposition in the first two games -- the disinterested Suns and the Myles Turner-less Pacers -- was weak, but you take road wins any way you can get them. The Blazers have dominated the glass (leading the league in rebounding percentage) and C.J. McCollum has shot 58 percent, even though he didn't get to play against that atrocious Phoenix defense on Wednesday.
Week 2: vs. NOP, vs. LAC, vs. PHX
Last Week: 5 ↓
Pace: 101.9 (15) OffRtg: 97.3 (24) DefRtg: 99.9 (10) NetRtg: -2.6 (20)
In addition to a new emphasis on offense (see above), Hayward's absence also means that the Celtics are depending more on the perimeter shooting of Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who are a combined 9-for-32 from 3-point range thus far. Those guys can all attack close-outs off the dribble, but opponents are going to close out conservatively and dare them to shoot from the outside. Last season, Brown and Smart ranked as two of the 44 worst jump shooters among 258 players who attempted at least 150 shots from outside the paint.
Week 2: vs. NYK, @ MIL, @ MIA
Last Week: 11 ↓
Pace: 94.7 (29) OffRtg: 101.5 (18) DefRtg: 97.5 (8) NetRtg: +4.1 (10)
Nikola Jokic didn't exactly pick up where he left off at the end of last season, dishing out 15 assists, but shooting just 3-for-13 in the Nuggets' first two games. Defense was still an issue though, as the Jazz attacked Jokic in the pick-and-roll early and often on Wednesday. With Jameer Nelson waived to make room for Richard Jefferson, Emmanuel Mudiay seems to have himself a permanent spot in the rotation, though it remains to be seen what happens with the frontline once Jefferson (best suited as a small-ball four) starts playing. Kenneth Faried and Jokic had some good minutes together in Saturday's win over Sacramento.
Week 2: vs. WAS, @ CHA, @ ATL, @ BKN
Last Week: 15 ↓
Pace: 105.7 (10) OffRtg: 103.9 (15) DefRtg: 106.7 (20) NetRtg: -2.7 (21)
Hassan Whiteside puts up the big lines, like his 26 and 22 in Orlando on Wednesday, and his defensive focus is critical. But the other end of the floor was the bigger factor in their second-half turnaround last season and will likely determine what they do from night to night this year. Offensive success is about their backcourt, so it's no coincidence that their five guards shot 36 percent in Wednesday's loss to the Magic and 52 percent in Saturday's win over the Pacers. Since the start of last season, they're 21-2 when Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters both play and combine for at least 35 points.
Week 2: vs. ATL, vs. SAS, vs. BOS
Last Week: 19 ↑
Pace: 99.7 (21) OffRtg: 107.4 (11) DefRtg: 105.1 (16) NetRtg: +2.3 (14)
The regular season is not the preseason, because the Detroit offense was at its best in Week 1 with Reggie Jackson on the floor. Tobias Harris (24.3 points per game on an effective field goal percentage of 63.5 percent) is an early candidate to grab one of the East's vacated All-Star spots and (already having success attacking the basket) would be the primary beneficiary if Jackson is putting pressure on the defense. And at least for one play, Andre Drummond lived up to his potential as a rim protector, helping the Pistons finish off a big comeback in New York (they trailed by 21) by blocking Kristaps Porzingis at the rim.
Week 2: vs. PHI, vs. MIN, @ LAC, @ GSW
Last Week: 23 ↑
Pace: 106.5 (6) OffRtg: 111.7 (5) DefRtg: 101.0 (11) NetRtg: +10.7 (4)
Injuries to Aaron Gordon (ankle) and Elfrid Payton (hamstring strain), along with a loss in Brooklyn, seemed to kill any momentum the Magic had with their starting lineup that played well at the end of last season and was a plus-16 in 20 minutes in Wednesday's win over Miami. And then they went to Cleveland and thumped the Cavs on Saturday to earn the first "Jekyll & Hyde Team of the Week" award of the season. He's still not getting to the line, but his new shot selection (more threes, fewer mid-range shots) seems to be agreeing with Nikola Vucevic, who totaled 64 points on an effective field goal percentage of 83 percent over the weekend back-to-back.
Week 2: vs. BKN, vs. SAS, @ CHA
Last Week: 18 ↓
Pace: 104.4 (13) OffRtg: 95.7 (26) DefRtg: 92.2 (4) NetRtg: +3.5 (11)
The Hornets racked up an uncharacteristic 38 turnovers in their first two games, but a 24-0 run, like the one that they had in the third quarter against Atlanta on Friday, can make up for a lot of mistakes. Cody Zeller is one of the three rotation guys out, but Frank Kaminsky and Dwight Howard are a team-best plus-37 in 25 minutes together. They're getting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (who missed the first two games for personal reasons) back in time for him defend (or at least try to defend) Antetokounmpo on Monday.
Week 2: @ MIL, vs. DEN, vs. HOU, vs. ORL
Last Week: 17 ↓
Pace: 104.3 (14) OffRtg: 106.6 (12) DefRtg: 108.6 (23) NetRtg: -2.0 (19)
The Pelicans signed Jameer Nelson on Sunday morning and got important minutes from him in L.A. on Sunday night, recovering from their second big collapse of the weekend (they led Friday's game against Golden State by 15 points) to pick up their first win of the season. They've been the league's best team in the first six minutes of games, but have been awful defensively (allowing 115 points per 100 possessions) in quarters 2-4. Small sample size theater: Jrue Holiday has shot 4-for-5 with Nelson on the floor and 9-for-34 otherwise.
Week 2: @ POR, @ SAC, vs. CLE
Last Week: 26 ↑
Pace: 106.1 (8) OffRtg: 108.2 (10) DefRtg: 112.0 (29) NetRtg: -3.8 (22)
The Pacers are undefeated with Myles Turner, who missed weekend losses to Portland and Miami with a concussion. The defense has been consistently bad, but they did show some fight after trailing by 21 in Miami on Saturday. Domantas Sabonis already has as many games of 16 or more points (2) as he did in Oklahoma City last season, doing a lot of good work as a roll man. In fact, his 6.3 points per game as a roll man rank second in the league among players who have played at least two games through Sunday.
Week 2: @ MIN, @ OKC, vs. SAS
Last Week: 24 ↑
Pace: 111.5 (2) OffRtg: 111.5 (6) DefRtg: 109.1 (26) NetRtg: +2.4 (13)
The Nets are better equipped -- with more experienced ball-handlers -- to deal with the absence of Jeremy Lin (out for the season with a torn patella tendon in his right knee) than they were last year. Still, it's another brutal injury for a guy who would be a lot of fun to watch in this offense. D'Angelo Russell shot well (51 percent overall, 3-for-5 in the clutch) in Week 1, but the Nets' offense was at its best (scoring 127 points per 100 possessions) with Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert in the backcourt. The defense has been bad, but rookie Jarrett Allen has (the league's best hair and) the makings of a good rim protector, blocking five shots in less than 30 minutes.
Week 2: @ ORL, vs. CLE, @ NYK, vs. DEN
Last Week: 22 ↓
Pace: 112.0 (1) OffRtg: 99.3 (22) DefRtg: 107.0 (22) NetRtg: -7.7 (24)
You only needed 24 hours of patience with Lonzo Ball to be rewarded with 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in Phoenix, a night after getting smothered by Patrick Beverley. The question is how patient you can be with the other important young guys -- Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle -- who need to be more consistent in their second and third seasons, respectively. The Lakers' 32-7 run that turned a 20-point deficit into a five-point lead (that they eventually blew) against New Orleans on Sunday came mostly with Jordan Clarkson and Josh Hart in the backcourt and Randle at center, giving coach Luke Walton some more things to think about going forward.
Week 2: vs. WAS, vs. TOR, @ UTA
Last Week: 20 ↓
Pace: 106.9 (4) OffRtg: 94.0 (28) DefRtg: 109.0 (25) NetRtg: -15.0 (28)
Joel Embiid did not play very well against Boston on Friday and is 0-for-10 from 3-point range in two games (he sat out Saturday's visit to Toronto). He may need some time to get into game shape, but a discussion needs to be had about how many of his catches are coming 20 or more feet from the basket. He can do some things off the dribble, but more work in the post, on the roll, or from the dunker spot would likely yield better results. Ben Simmons has begun his career with three double-doubles, but has shot 4-for-17 from outside the restricted area.
Week 2: @ DET, vs. HOU, @ DAL
Last Week: 25
Pace: 94.4 (30) OffRtg: 95.2 (27) DefRtg: 102.9 (12) NetRtg: -7.8 (25)
De'Aaron Fox was a blur, but in enough control to lead the Kings in scoring (13.7 points per game) and assists (5.3) in their first three games. He had some good minutes playing alongside George Hill, who hit three big shots in Friday's win in Dallas. But the Kings' offense was otherwise anemic and ranks 25th in effective field goal percentage and dead last in free throw rate (14 attempts per 100 shots from the field) through the first week. Fox has just one free throw attempt with his team-high 41 field goal attempts.
Week 2: @ PHX, vs. NOP, vs. WAS
Last Week: 29 ↑
Pace: 105.8 (9) OffRtg: 98.2 (23) DefRtg: 105.9 (17) NetRtg: -7.6 (23)
Dennis Schroder sprained his ankle late in Sunday's loss in Brooklyn, so the Hawks will be playing in Miami on Monday without the guy who has taken almost twice as many shots (69) as any of his teammates. As expected, the Hawks offense is still bad (Hawks not named Marco Belinelli have shot 15-for-59 from 3-point range) and their defense put the Hornets and Nets on the line a combined 64 times over the weekend. John Collins' bounciness off the bench has been a bright spot.
Week 2: @ MIA, @ CHI, vs. DEN, vs. MIL
Last Week: 21 ↓
Pace: 96.8 (27) OffRtg: 99.8 (20) DefRtg: 109.3 (27) NetRtg: -9.6 (26)
The Mavs are off to another rough start (they began last season 0-5), with two guards - Dennis Smith Jr. and Seth Curry - injured and the three guys who have started all three games -- Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews and Dirk Nowitzki -- combining to shoot 30 percent. They erased double-digit deficits in each of their first two games, but allowed the Hawks and Kings to 10-for-17 on clutch shots. No matter the circumstances, those were two losses at home to teams expected to fall well short of the playoffs.
Week 2: vs. GSW, vs. MEM, @ MEM, vs. PHI
Last Week: 28
Pace: 100.4 (19) OffRtg: 95.8 (25) DefRtg: 106.8 (21) NetRtg: -11.0 (27)
Kristaps Porzingis (64 points and 19 free throw attempts in two games) has looked good, but the Knicks aren't quite ready to put the future ahead of the present. Rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina is hurt again after less than eight minutes of playing time in Oklahoma City and Willy Hernangomez (first team All-Rookie last season) rode the pine for all but four minutes of garbage time in the opener. Tim Hardaway Jr. is thus far shooting 27 percent for his $71 million.
Week 2: @ BOS, vs. BKN, @ CLE
Last Week: 30 ↑
Pace: 100.2 (20) OffRtg: 86.6 (30) DefRtg: 103.9 (14) NetRtg: -17.3 (29)
The fight that sent Nikola Mirotic to the hospital and got Bobby Portis suspended for eight games was an ugly start to what should be an ugly season in Chicago. But it has provided an opportunity for rookie Lauri Markannen, who has shown some flashes (like this up-and-under against Pau Gasol) in averaging 15 and 10 in the team's first two games. Robin Lopez is actually a plus-0 for this team, which has been outscored by 27 points in his 35 minutes off the floor.
Week 2: @ CLE, vs. ATL, vs. OKC
Last Week: 27 ↓
Pace: 109.4 (3) OffRtg: 90.4 (29) DefRtg: 116.6 (30) NetRtg: -26.2 (30)
It seems rather exceptional to fire your coach after just three games, but the Suns played exceptionally poorly in those 144 minutes. They trailed their home opener (to a team missing one of its best players) by 58 points, for cryin' out loud. Step 1 for interim coach Jay Triano (after figuring out what that Eric Bledsoe tweet was about) is to get his team to care ... just a little bit ... on defense.
Week 2: vs. SAC, vs. UTA, @ POR