Is Ben Wallace’s career nearing its end?

I don’t want to write this post, but putting my fingers to a keyboard won’t change the truth:

Ben Wallace might be done.

Not done playing completely, mind you. John Kuester said he expects Wallace to return this season, according to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, and I think he will, too. But, perhaps, done playing effectively.

The 14-year pro hasn’t made nearly the same impact on the court as he did last year. At 36, his body might finally be breaking down.

Wallace signed a two-year contract last summer, and I don’t think he would have done that if he didn’t believe he’d play two more years. But circumstances change and Wallace appears to be proud enough that he wouldn’t return if he didn’t believe he could contribute. Remember, before the Pistons entered the picture with a contract offer in 2009, Wallace had planned to retire.

He could be headed down that road again. Wallace has played in just thee of the Pistons’ last 17 games. He missed eight games after the death of his brother, and I won’t speculate how much of a mental toll that continues to place on him, but it certainly could be a factor in whether he returns for another season. After playing 64 minutes in three games, Wallace has missed Detroit’s last six games with a lingering knee injury. That he’s missed so many games with this injury after he had a chance to rest physically just prior at least raises a red flag.

For perspective, here’s how many games Wallace has played in the 17-game stretch each season he played the fewest games (bars are colored by his team):

Sheet 1

On top of not playing, when Wallace has seen the court this year, he hasn’t played as well. He sits last on the team in adjusted plus-minus after ranking first last season, and other numbers show why.

His offensive- and defensive-rebounding percentages have dropped. So have his steal and block percentages, the latter to a career low. And fairly alarmingly, his turnover percentage has jumped to 20.3 – the highest since his rookie year, when he played limited minutes, and well above his career average (13.7).

I hope I’m wrong. I hope Wallace defies the odds – again – and plays another decade.

But in case I’m right, I’m going to appreciate him these last few games. And I hope you’ll do the same.

It might be our final chance to watch Wallace take the court.

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