Since he came to Detroit in Feb. 2004, Rasheed Wallace has been the Pistons’ most important player.
Certainly not the best. That distinction went to Ben Wallace, then Chauncey Billups, and now? Maybe Allen Iverson, Tayshaun Prince or Rodney Stuckey — still, not Wallace.
But Wallace has been Detroit’s most important player.
He immediately upped the Pistons from good team to championship-level upon arrival. But his constant whining with officials also rubbed off on the rest of the team. For better or worse, Detroit has taken his personality and approach.
He spurred his teammates to respect Larry Brown, a fellow North Carolina Tar Heel. And he was instrumental in the Pistons tuning out Flip Saunders.
He was the only player to show up to Michael Curry’s introductory press conference. He knows his status as the creator of team’s identity, and he wants to do the right thing.
But, at 34, maybe he can’t anymore.
Yesterday’s game was quite the metaphor for the Pistons’ situation.
Wallace was very active in the first half, scoring nine points on 4-of-6 shooting and blocking two shots. He also helped hold Zydrunas Ilgauskas, one of five players in the 170 club, to 1-of-9 shooting.
But Wallace didn’t score in the second half, and Ilgauskas scored 10 points.
Detroit outscored Cleveland by five in the third quarter behind the youthful activity of Amir Johnson (eight points and six rebounds in the quarter).
And then the Pistons didn’t have anything left. With Lebron James on the bench, the Cavaliers opened the fourth quarter on a 15-2 run. Detroit kept it close for a few minutes, but Cleveland pulled away.
The older generation played well but, didn’t have the legs to keep it up. The younger generation was a nice spark, but didn’t have the consistency to keep it up. And in the end, there wasn’t enough production from anyone to complete the game.
Veterans like Wallace and Allen Iverson can no carry longer the Pistons. And youngsters like Johnson and Rodney Stuckey can’t either — at least not yet.
So the Pistons are hitting new lows. They have now lost four straight home losses for the first time in eight years.
This is a team without an identity, and that problem probably won’t be solved this year.
- Iverson had a near-vintage game for him: 44 minutes, 22 points, 19 shots, two steals and five turnovers — all team highs. He had just one assist. It’s getting harder and harder to believe Iverson and the rest of the Pistons will mesh this year.
- Stuckey was a non-factor scoring in the first half (no field goals), but he had seven assists. Then he became a complete non-factor in the second half offensively (four points and one assist). His play, along with Wallace’s disappearance, is what allowed Iverson to dominate the ball.
- Jason Maxiell, Arron Afflalo and Will Bynum combined to play just 12 minutes. Pistons coach Michael Curry shouldn’t be shortening the bench so early in the season.