It won’t be as much fun — how can it be, with Allan Houston’s pretty jumper residing in New York? — but there’s no reason why the Pistons can’t win another 46 games and qualify for the playoffs. Trouble is, they still don’t have enough firepower to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs. The NBA title goes to Chicago unless one of the Big Three — Jordan, Pippen, Rodman — suffers serious injury. But this time, Seattle extends the Bulls to seven games. Mitch Albom
The Pistons were making big progress — and then New York offered Allan Houston a limo ride, and things began to unravel. Now the burden falls on Grant Hill. If he’s really as determined as he sounds, I’ll pick the Pistons to win the first round of their playoffs. If not, they’ll be the nicest bunch of guys to just miss. As for the championship, Michael over Hakeem in six.
The Pistons will get better as this season goes on, but a slow start probably will keep them from matching last season’s 46 regular-season wins. If they get past the first round of the playoffs, they are making progress. But don’t expect them to get to the Eastern Conference finals — where the New York Knicks will win — or to the NBA Finals, where the Knicks will defeat the Utah Jazz.
Perry A. Farrell
Doug Collins says he isn’t concerned about the offense; the defense might be better than last year, when it allowed an average of 92.9 points. It won’t be easy to duplicate last season’s 46 victories; let’s say 44-38 and a spot in the playoffs. In the Finals, the Chicago Bulls over Houston in six. Keith Gave
If the Pistons can’t inspire us with their hard work, then there is something wrong with our work ethic. Look for them to win fewer games in the regular season than a year ago, but one or two in the playoffs. Chicago will take the fifth after a nasty battle with Houston.