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On Ben Wallace

Just to throw in my late two cents on the issue… I’m not thrilled, as you might imagine. But there’s no one in particular to get mad at, it just sorta sucks. I’m not mad at the Pistons for being unwilling to play Ben Wallace $15 million a year for four years, I’m not mad at Ben Wallace for taking Chicago’s money, and I’m not mad at him for not wanting to be a Piston anymore. I really can’t blame him.

People are saying that the Pistons aren’t the Pistons anymore, that that team is dead, that it’s a whole new era in Detroit… and I agree with that, and I don’t agree that it happened when Ben Wallace headed for Chicago. It happened gradually, and the defense-first Pistons died sometime between the hiring of Flip Saunders and the thoroughly uninspiring Pistons playoff performance. The team didn’t rely on intensity and defense anymore, they lost their discipline, and they lost their identity. Yes, those ’04/’05/New Bad Boys are gone… but Ben Wallace’s departure didn’t kill them; they were already dead.

So if you’re Ben Wallace, a guy who’s built a career on working harder than anyone else… you want to be somewhere where hard work is still the recipe still success. The Bulls, if nothing else, will work hard. They’ll get after it on defense. They’ve got a tough-minded coach who won’t tolerate a lapse in intensity. Throw in the ridiculous money… and it’s a good place for Ben Wallace.

Now, that’s not to say that I think this is a great deal for Chicago, either (although Charles Oakley likes it). Even forgetting that Ben’s an offensive liability, and that at the free-throw line, he makes Shaq look like Larry Bird, his production had been declining in recent years. He’s certainly on the downside, and he’s not going to find a situation that works for him like it worked in Detroit. It was very unique, what happened in Detroit with Ben Wallace… it’s not everyday that a team builds around a defensive-minded player, but they did it. No one else is going to, and his numbers are going to keep dropping off.

A year or two from now, that contract’s not going to look good to anyone other than Isiah Thomas. So unless it puts the Bulls among the NBA’s true championship contenders (and I don’t think it quite does that, though with Big Ben and P.J. Brown, they’ll be much much closer), I don’t know how it’s worth it for them.

As for the Pistons, and where they go from here… it’s probably a little too early to say. I don’t know if they’ll start Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess as their bigs, or go with Rasheed and Nazr Mohammed. And they might not be done tinkering with the roster, either. We’ll see. I’ll just congratulate Ben Wallace on his payday. If any athlete deserves it, he’s certainly at the top of the list.

Matthew J. Darnell

2 Comments

  1. actually, the rules changes david stern implemented may have done more to hasten the demise of the pistons than any loss of focus the team suffered. i don’t care if the pistons maintained their defensive focus–the new rules that allow slashers like lebron and wade to attack the basket and get a shitload of foul calls will ensure that a team that played like the pistons in 2004 will never win a championship again. stern took a long hard look at the ratings and changed the rules to make sure exciting guys who sell craploads of jerseys will be holding up the trophy.

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