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Old 10-01-06, 03:23 AM
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Pistons' main rivals include Spurs

Eye on the enemy


We take a look at how the Pistons' main rivals fared in the off-season.


Last season: Won NBA title in six games over Dallas and eliminated Detroit, 4-2, in the East finals.

Off-season: The core is back, including coach Pat Riley, Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning.

Outlook: Worse. Dwyane Wade makes the team a title contender. But Shaquille O'Neal, Payton and Mourning appear to be slowing down. And will Antoine Walker and Jason Williams behave and be hungry enough for another title run?


Last season: Lost to Pistons, 4-3, in the second round.

Off-season: LeBron James agreed to an extension, and all of Cleveland was relieved. The Cavs added veterans David Wesley and Scot Pollard and drafted MSU guard Shannon Brown.

Outlook: Better. James nearly beat Detroit last season. This year, the supporting cast must improve enough under second-year coach Mike Brown to surpass the Pistons.


Last season: 2004-05 champs lost in the second round to Dallas.

Off-season: The core of the team -- Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili -- returns. Duncan, who struggled with a sore foot last year, should be healthier. The team replaced Rasho Nesterovic and Nazr Mohammed at center with Francisco Elson.

Outlook: Same. The Spurs will be a contender again, though some of their supporting cast (Brent Barry, 34, and Bruce Bowen, 35) is past their prime. .


Last season: Had Miami on the ropes in the Finals, but collapsed in four straight games.

Off-season: The Mavs might have added good role players in MSU's Maurice Ager and veterans Devean George and Austin Croshere.

Outlook: Better. They're the No. 1 contender. They have to hold off resurgent Phoenix. And Dirk Nowitzki must recover from an awful NBA Finals.


Last season: Baby Bulls put up a strong fight before losing to Miami in the first round.

Off-season: Ben Wallace is the key addition. Ben-esque center Tyson Chandler was shipped to the Hornets for better-scoring veteran P.J. Brown.

Outlook: Better. Could contend with Pistons for division title, and some are calling them a championship contender. But tying up millions of dollars in a one-dimensional player like Wallace is a gamble.
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