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Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Updated: January 15, 7:32 AM ET
THE PULSE: Lakers can't live without Shaq, Kobe


Kobe Bryant hurt his surgically repaired shoulder last night against the Cavs, joining Shaquille O'Neal and Karl Malone on the sidelines. Gary Payton and Co. eked out a win at home, but most opponents won't be as kind as the Cavs.

In the last four seasons, the Lakers have won three titles without Karl Malone or Gary Payton. Without the Lakers, Malone and Payton have won a grand total of zero titles, though they do have three NBA Finals appearances on their collective resumé, each having lost to the Michael Jordan and the Bulls in six games (Payton with the SuperSonics, in 1996, and Malone with the Jazz, in '97 and '98).

So it makes sense that SportsNation finds Shaq and Kobe to be the most indispensible Lakers (among the players, that is -- last May, SportsNation told us it believes that Phil Jackson has been more valuable than Kobe and almost as valuable as Shaq). After all, they're the ones who've won it all before, right?

Then again, Shaq and Kobe came up embarrassingly short last season when the Spurs trounced them by 28 right in front of Jack Nicholson and Dyan Cannon to eliminate the Lakers in the second round. Isn't that why the Lake Show needed Payton and Malone in the first place? Aren't those the two guys who got the Lakers off to such a rip-roaring start, taking some of the load from Shaq and letting Kobe return slowly from his physical and legal problems?

So maybe 28.7 percent of SportsNation has it right -- the Lakers need the entire Fab Four to win.

Vote: Can the Lakers win without Kobe?

Best rotation, Nation? Red Sox, A's, Cubs, Astros
Roger Clemens is joining the Astros, but SportsNation says that the Red Sox, with Curt Schilling joining Pedro Martinez, still have the best starting pitching rotation in baseball. The voting is very close, however, with the A's, Cubs, Astros and, yes, the Yankees not far behind.

Alas, the Astros are not scheduled to play the Red Sox or Yankees this year, meaning that SportsNation, the Sox and the Yankees will have to wait until the World Series at the earliest to see how quickly Roger can duck a Pedro or Kevin Brown fastball. But, now that he'll be coming to the plate in the National League, we'll see if he tries to own the inside of the plate with the same ferocity.

Vote: Best rotation in the majors? | Results

SportsNation sounds off:
Kenny (Dover, Del.): How can you ask for the best pitching rotation in the majors and not include the much improved Philly rotation?

Dustin Phillips (Costa Mesa, Calif.): You ask me for the best rotation and then leave out the most improved AL starting five: the Anaheim Angels have the most solid rotation. Not to mention they have six guys, not just five, that can start. Come on . . . one injury to the rest of those rotations and they don't have nearly the same firepower. The Angels can take an injury and still be fine.


SportsNation picks Pats & Eagles for Super Bowl
The polls are still open, but, with more than 100,000 votes in so far, SportsNation says we're gonna see an All-American Patriots-Eagles Super Bowl, with the Patriots the pick to win it all.

Vote: Who will win the AFC and NFC Championships? | Results

SportsNation still outsmarting ESPN experts
After two weeks, the NFL fans in SportsNation are picking the playoff games more accurately than the ESPN's panel of experts.

On wild card weekend, ESPN's eight experts were right on 80.6 percent of their picks, which is excellent until compared to the collective wisdom of SportsNation -- the Nation was perfect, correctly picking the Titans, Panthers, Packers and Colts to win.

The next weekend, the ESPN experts got the better of SportsNation. While the experts hit on 59.4 percent of their picks, the Nation was 50-50, narrowly missing on the two overtime games (for the late Sunday game, 50.7 percent of SportsNation picked the Pack, while 49.3 percent had the Eagles winning).

Overall, SportsNation leads the experts 75.0 to 69.8 percent. It's still anyone's ballgame.

Week 1 predictions: Experts | SportsNation
Week 2 predictions: Experts | SportsNation

Rose popularity takes another hit
Pete Rose
What should Pete's Hall of Fame plaque say? See 10 proposals and cast your vote.
Last Wednesday, we reported that Pete Rose's revelations that he had bet on baseball, including Cincinnati Reds games, had hurt his standing with fans.

The news is only getting worse for Rose. In our most recent SportsNation polling, which began immediately after Rose's interview on ABC's Primetime Live, only 53 percent of sports fans believe Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. That's down from 84 percent in July 2002. And only 23 percent believe he should be allowed to manage in the major leagues, down from 65 percent just five months ago.

Big deal? Well, if Rose's Hall of Fame campaign rests on his public popularity, his smooth sailing to Cooperstown may have hit the perfect storm: his time is running out to be selected by the baseball writers, many of the writers been turned off by his recent behavior, and the public no longer seems to be on his side. All of which may open the door to Bud Selig leaving the door closed.

Vote: Should Rose be allowed to manage a major league team? | Results

  • Are you a former Rose supporter? Click here to tell us why Pete has turned you off.

    SportsNation likes Wings to skate away with Cup
    In SportsNation polling on the major NHL awards, including the big one (the Stanley Cup, baby), a plurality of SportsNation's hockey fans have installed the Detroit Red Wings as favorites to win it all over the New Jersey Devils. But more than 60 percent say that the Wings won't win.

    Other midseason winners: Ilya Kovalchuk (Hart Trophy), Martin Brodeur (Vezina Trophy), Rob Blake (Norris Trophy), Bob Hartley (Adams Award), and Joni Pitkanen (Calder Trophy).

    Vote: Who are your midseason picks? | Results

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