The Pulse: NBA Update

Updated: January 17, 2006, 4:42 PM ET
Friday, Jan. 13

Welcome to The Pulse, the place to find out what the sports world is thinking. Every day on ESPN.com, SportsNation registers its opinion on a wide range of topics by casting votes and chatting with experts in The Show. We collect the daily highlights and put them in The Pulse.

Story of the Day: Pistons Seize Control
The basketball version of the Divine Right of Kings (not the Sacramento variety) may have held sway when Bill Russell's Celtics treated the championship like their birthright, but these days, the term defending champions is a more apt description than reigning champions.

The San Antonio Spurs are still the reigning NBA champs, but SportsNation overwhelmingly feels that San Antonio's loss to Detroit on Thursday is evidence that another team occupies the throne these days. In fact, the Pistons are picked by 64 percent of voters to win the title this season, owning nearly a two-to-one edge on the combined support of the Spurs, Mavericks, Suns and Heat.

And like the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL, the Pistons appear ready to challenge regular-season history after vanquishing the best the present has to offer. Thursday's win moved Flip Saunders' team to 28-5, keeping them on pace to win 69.5 games in an attempt to join the Chicago Bulls in the exclusive 70-win club. Will it happen? Much as like Detroit's title chances, 'Nation voters say not a chance.

 Chauncey Billups
Are Chauncey Billups and the Pistons headed for a title?
Which of these favorites is most likely to win the NBA title? (71,062 votes)
64.0% Detroit Pistons
16.7% San Antonio Spurs
10.5% Miami Heat
4.3% Dallas Mavericks
4.3% Phoenix Suns

Will the Pistons win 70 games this season? (30,194 votes)
67.8% No
32.1% Yes

Which Eastern Conference team matches up best with the Pistons? (22,872 votes)
57.7% Miami Heat
18.2% Cleveland Cavaliers
13.4% New Jersey Nets
10.5% Indiana Pacers

Which Western Conference team matches up best with the Spurs? (38,055 votes)
40.7% Phoenix Suns
35.7% Dallas Mavericks
15.2% Los Angeles Lakers
8.2% Memphis Grizzlies

  • Click here to vote on Pistons chasing 70 wins


    Voice of the Fan
    Can we just give the Pistons their trophy now and cancel the rest of the season? I mean, really, what is the purpose?
    Todd (Georgia)

    Power Rankings
    The Pistons are at the top of SportsNation's class, but what about the rest of the league's elite? Check out the 'Nation's Power Rankings
    1. Detroit Pistons
    2. San Antonio Spurs
    3. Phoenix Suns
    4. Dallas Mavericks
    5. New Jersey Nets
    6. Cleveland Cavaliers
    7. Miami Heat
    8. Memphis Grizzlies
    9. Indiana Pacers
    10. Los Angeles Clippers
  • Click here to rank the teams
  • Detroit. The cohesion that comes from having essentially the same roster for three years running will go a long way in the playoffs.
    Steve (Ithaca)

    I like the Pistons' "something to prove" angle without Larry Brown.
    Brian (Bridgeport)

    San Antonio has the depth. Once everybody finds their perfect role, they'll go on their usual end-of-the-season tear and rip through the playoffs.
    Steve (Austin)

    Detroit. They thrive off disrespect. They want to prove to everyone that they can win without Larry Brown. They want to prove that they can beat San Antonio. Most importantly, they want to wear the championship belts again!
    KB (Baltimore)

    The Spurs are still the team to beat until anyone proves otherwise. Tim Duncan is still the best player in the NBA (and you want to talk about disrespect). Tim (San Antonio): Please, everyone, go ahead and throw dirt on the Spurs. They love it. And in June, they'll suddenly reappear.
    TJ (Portland, Maine)

  • Click here for the transcript of Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie


    SportsNation's Show: Expert Opinions
    Kelly (San Antonio): Though the Spurs have the best record in the West, they've been manhandled upfront by the Pistons - TWICE. Are they looking to move either Rasho or Nazr and get another big man who can bang with the Wallaces?

    Chris Sheridan: The Spurs never get too excited or too concerned about anything that happens before April. They're looking to tinker a little, perhaps by trading someone like Beno Udrih, but Nazr doesn't have much trade value in the final year of his contract, and they're probably going to end up keeping him.

  • Click here for Sheridan's chat transcript


    Joe (Holland, Mich.): I keep hearing that even though the Pistons are the best in the league, they are still not favorites to win it all. What do you think?

    John Hollinger: I picked the Spurs at the start of the season, but when I was recently asked by ESPN.com, I went with Detroit. My reasoning wasn't so much who was better -- as last year showed, they're pretty darn close -- but the path of least resistance. San Antonio would have to play Phoenix first, while it doesn't appear Detroit will play an opponent of that caliber until the Finals.

  • Click here for Hollinger's chat transcript


    More SportsNation: LeBron vs. Kobe?
    SportsNation sees little room for debate when it comes to the best team, but how about the best player in the NBA?

    By the slimmest of margins, LeBron James earns top honors from SportsNation. But Cleveland's "King James" has far from a mandate, as Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson and Kevin Garnett all garner solid shares of the vote. In fact, when pitted one-on-one against Bryant, quite a duel emerges between the league's current leading scorers.

    As a team player, LeBron James gets the nod from SportsNation as the guy they'd pick to help win a title and the guy they'd want to play pick-up ball with. But purely for putting points on the board? It's pretty clear that Bryant, fresh off his recent string of 45-point games, has the edge on the youngster.

     LeBron James
    Is LeBron James already the best player in the NBA?
    Who is the best player in the NBA? (61,575 votes)
    30.4% LeBron James
    28.3% Tim Duncan
    19.2% Kobe Bryant
    11.0% Allen Iverson
    10.9% Kevin Garnett

    If you needed one player to score 40 points in a game, who would you pick? (12,432 votes)
    47.4% Kobe Bryant
    25.9% Allen Iverson
    14.0% LeBron James
    6.7% Dwyane Wade
    5.8% Tracy McGrady

    Which player is the better pure shooter? (34,162 votes)
    81.9% Kobe Bryant
    18.1% LeBron James

    Which player is the better pure scorer? (34,162 votes)
    74.5% Kobe Bryant
    25.5% LeBron James

    If you had to win just one game, which player would you choose? (34,162 votes)
    67.1% Kobe Bryant
    32.9% LeBron James

    Which player would you pick if you were in pursuit of a championship? (34,162 votes)
    50.6% Kobe Bryant
    49.4% LeBron James

    Which player would you rather play with in a pickup game? (34,162 votes)
    65.6% LeBron James
    34.4% Kobe Bryant

  • Click here to vote on LeBron vs. Kobe


    Voice of the Fan: Choose Your Scorer
    Allen Iverson, because he can actually lead a team to something. Kobe Bryant is just a ball hog who has no place on my team.
    Frankie (New York)

    Francis Flop
    It wasn't so long ago that a trade swapping Paul Pierce for Steve Francis wouldn't have seemed like an outlandish proposition, but no more. Even though SportsNation voters are split on which big name is more in need of a fresh start after Francis was suspended for refusng to go back into a game, they don't necessarily equate the two players. More than 90 percent of voters no longer consider Francis an elite NBA player. Vote!

    LeBron. Too young and too talented NOT to hitch your wagon to.
    Jason (Scarsdale, N.Y.)

    LeBron, because he's a team player. Kobe can drop 50 on anyone, but what's the point when he runs teammates and coaches out of town like it's his job?
    Matt (Washington, D.C.)

    I have to build around a scorer? Iverson, hands down. When Kobe goes off, he still seems like a one-man show. Iverson at least appears to put the team on his shoulders when he explodes.
    Troy (Gainesville, Fla.)

    I'll still take LeBron James. He is younger than Kobe Bryant, not nearly as selfish with shots, and tries to get his teammates involved in the game.
    Domes (Pittsburgh)

    Rip Hamilton. I'll take my scorer without an attitude. He'll make the shot when he has the ball, but doesn't command it every time down the floor.
    Scott (Watertown, Mass.)

    I would build my team around Allen Iverson. He's a better leader than Kobe, and surprisingly, he can actually pass the ball to his teammates, something Kobe Bryant has never heard of before.
    Michael (Marlton, N.J.)

  • Click here for the transcript of Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie


    SportsNation's Show: Expert Opinions on Ron Artest
    Anderson (Brooklyn, N.Y.): What is your opinion of the Indiana management's handling of the Ron Artest fiasco? I think that Bird and Co. bungled this whole situation.

    Chris Sheridan: I'll reserve judgment until I see what they get for him, but right now I'm of the belief that they should have handled this much differently right from the get-go. If they had shrugged off Artest's trade demand as just another daily dose of Life With Ron-Ron, they could have worked behind the scenes to move him and gotten a better offer.

    Rob (Minnesota): Please tell me Kevin McHale was telling you he finally was able to deal McCants and Olowokandi for Artest?!

    Chris Sheridan: I just had an important call concerning Artest and what might happen now that the Maggette deal is dead. I think the Pacers are no closer to doing anything with the Nuggets, Warriors or Timberwolves than they were two weeks ago, but I'm hearing that the Rockets -- who don't have anything outside of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady that interests the Pacers -- are trying to find a player that Indiana does like. The end result would be a three- or four-way trade that would bring Artest to Houston.

  • Click here for Sheridan's chat transcript


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