I wasn’t happy when Ben Wallace left for the Bulls. He was my favorite Piston, and I wanted him back.
I was sure he would return, and that just made the parting worse. Detroit’s championship window was wide open, and there were no suitable replacements on the market. (The Pistons’ consolation was Nazr Mohammed).
I thought Detroit would have to pay Ben whatever he wanted. Sure, he’d be overpaid, but that’s the price of a title. Joe Dumars had given the Pistons flexibility. It was time to take advantage.
But he decided to let Ben go.
It was the right move
Ben quickly went from my favorite to least favorite player in the league. He was a traitor.
But deep down, I didn’t blame him.
Sam Smith chronicles Ben’s struggles after taking the money. The presumption is he would have been better off taking less in Detroit.
But who says he would have been happy here?
Piece of mind with the Pistons was far from guaranteed. The contract was.
Flip Saunders’s system obviously didn’t fit him. He clashed with Rick Carlisle, too.
Maybe it’s a Ben thing not a Chicago/Cleveland thing.
And as much as I didn’t want to admit it, Ben wasn’t Ben his last year with the Pistons. Shaq, then with the Heat, scored at will on him during the conference finals. (And although Ben was a better defender off the ball, he was definitely one of the best on-ball defenders in the league during his prime).
He can still play a little
Obviously, the Pistons aren’t signing the Ben they had. And I’m not expecting him to play much. Heck, I’m not even sure if he’ll be in the rotation.
But he can still produce.
He had a 16.4 rebounding percentage last year. If he had enough minutes to qualify, he would have been tied for 12th in the league.
Patrick Hayes of It’s Just Sports has more detail on Ben’s post-Detroit production, finding his productions suffered more for a decline in minutes than ability.
There’s no risk
The Pistons aren’t going to win the title this year. They’re young and will still be finding themselves.
So, it’s not too big a deal who the players at the end of their bench are.
And even if they were contenders, Ben isn’t going to make or break anything. The Lakers just won a title with Didier Ilunga-Mbenga as their third center.
Besides, who would you rather have? Joel Anthony?
Wallace won’t be a key contributor, and he doesn’t cost much. From a basketball sense, this is a very minor move.
It’s nearly impossible for it to go wrong. The expectations for a player this far down the bench are just too low.
Which Ben are we getting?
Once Wallace left, we learned he didn’t always fit his on-court image.
He feuded with Scott Skiles over a headband. He publically challenged Flip Saunders. Basically, he was a spoiled, me-first baby.
Players like him aren’t typically malcontents.
Guys who dive for loose balls don’t refuse to enter the game.
Guys who play harder on defense than offense don’t demand touches.
Guys who went to a small school, weren’t drafted and toiled in Europe don’t undermine coaches.
I think the money and attention got to him. I’m hoping a reduced salary and a reduced role come with a reduced ego this time around.
For $1.3 million, I’m willing to take a chance on a happy ending.