Step right up everybody, and hurry to the front of the line. It is only going to cost you five tickets to hop on this ride. Get your chance to ride the roller coaster that is the Wild Wild West.

With the NBA season kicked into high gear now that the trade deadline has finished, the West Division is such a nail-biter that there is no telling who is going to come out representing that division. As of Monday, the Los Angeles Lakers were the No. 1 team in the division.

Do you have any idea how long it has been since that team has been on top of its game?

I am blown by the Lakers resurgence as a credible team, especially since there was so much drama surrounding Kobe Bryant's antics before the season ever began.

It all started when Bryant began to spout out that he wanted to be traded from the Lakers, and then he didn't, before he did again.

I'm not sure how the Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak kept him there, but apparently it has paid off.

It's like watching the same team of which I'm not a big fan. They seem to be always winning, and one reason is their genius trade by getting rid of the stain that is known as Kwame Brown.

Seriously, who wants this guy on their team? Apparently the Memphis Grizzlies do because they are aware that they are a terrible team and there really is nothing they could do about it.

The Grizzlies got rid of arguably their best player, Pau Gasol.

There was some speculation on whether or not getting Gasol was a smart decision.

In his first 10 games as a Laker, he has averaged more points, steals and blocks in a game with less time on the court.

He is also one of the league's most accurate shooters and with Bryant maintaining his incredible performance, we could be looking at the best team in the West when it's all said in done.

Three teams that were really close behind the Lakers are the San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Hornets and Phoenix Suns.

It's not really a big shocker to see Phoenix and San Antonio in the mix, but New Orleans has not only been the surprise in the West, but the surprise in the league.

The Hornets, led by point guard Chris Paul, have looked virtually unstoppable this season.

Paul is averaging 21 points and 11 assists per game and if he keeps it up the 2005-06 Rookie of the Year could be the 2007-08 Most Valuable Player.

Add that with center Tyson Chandler's dominance on the board - averaging 12 rebounds a game - and with shooting guard Peja Stoyjakovic's ability to shoot the three, New Orleans might just sneak in there and takeover the West.

The San Antonio Spurs are on fire.

They have become a fixture atop the Western Division for the last 10 seasons. Sure, everybody on the team is getting up there in age, but that doesn't seem to stop them.

Tim Duncan may have lost a step, but scoring nearly 20 points and snaring 12 rebounds in a game does not mean that it's time for him to put his sneakers up.

Of everyone on the team, nobody has been as impressive as Manu Ginobili. He is the leading scorer and he is not even a starter.

As of Monday, Ginobili had scored at least 30 points in four of the last five games. Two of those games had him scoring at least 40.

The way the Spurs have been playing of late should not be surprising to anybody.

Most likely this kind of performance from the team will continue in this highly contested division.

Of all of the teams that are taking over in that division, the one that everybody needs to keep an eye on is Houston.

The team that I considered as my dark horse to win the West before the season began has become a favorite.

Although the Rockets were in the No. 7 spot, they were only three games behind the Lakers. That's how close the division is.

Ever since Tracy McGrady returned to the lineup after a long layoff due to injury, Houston has lifted off.

Since 2008 started, the Rockets were 21-4 as of Monday, which includes a 12-game winning streak. McGrady came back during their second win of that streak.

Yao Ming seems to get better and better every single year. The 7-foot-6-inch center is averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds a game.

Not bad for a team that lacks a point guard. I mean let's face it, Rafer Alston will not be on any All-Star ballots anytime soon.

So as we look into the future of this outstanding division, we can see that it is still anybody's game.

Even teams that I didn't mention like the Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks and the Golden State Warriors have a shot to take the West. Between the top seed and No. 9, which belongs to Denver, only 5 1/2 games separated them and the Lakers for No. 1.

It's going to take some extra fight between these teams to see which one is going to stand out. In fact, I don't doubt that anyone of the top-9 could take on Eastern Division-leading Boston.

The NBA's West is such a thrill ride right now. Speaking of which, I still have not received those five tickets it costs.

Juan Carlos Reyes is a sports reporter for the Record Star. Readers may contact him at 361-387-4511 or via email at