In the Game for 08-19-09

Ben Wallace? He’s baaaaaaaccccccck!!

Never say never seams like the appropriate retort for Wallace’s return to The Palace of Auburn Hills and to a franchise that he helped win the 2004 NBA championship, while garnering a record four Defensive Player of the Year awards in his six seasons in Detroit.

Out of all the potential happenings in sports in the Detroit Area, the return of Wallace to the Pistons ranks up there with the Lions winning the 2010 Super Bowl or Dontrell Willis winning 20 games for the Tigers this season, or the
University of Detroit Mercy playing in the Final Four at Ford Field in March.

The fact of the matter is none of those things were or are going to happen. However, I do concede that maybe before I join my Father in heaven the Lions will finally play in a Super Bowl. Just maybe UDM, under second-year coach
Ray McCallum, will reclaim its glory years. And finally, if the baseball gods have a heart, Willis will in the next couple years at least become a functional pitcher again.

To me, all those improbable and unlikely occurrences had greater potential to happen than Wallace wearing a Pistons’ uniform again. When Wallace bolted to Chicago in 2006 and signed that preposterous and incredible $60 million
free agent deal, who could blame him for the get money, get money, get money, money stick? Conversely, who could blame Pistons president Joe Dumars for offering Wallace a credible $48 million deal? He understood that Wallace’s strength was the overall team, its schemes both offensively and defensively and how he fit into it all.

In many cases when a player leaves its scheme and team cohesiveness, he or she never quite reclaims that effectiveness as an elite player. Wallace, who will be 35 next month, clearly fits that profile.

In Chicago he did not even come close to being the All-Star player he was with the Pistons. Chicago gave up on him in 2006, trading him to Cleveland last February.

Wallace, who averaged 2.9 points and 6.5 rebounds in 56 games for the Cavaliers last season, was traded with Sasha Pavlovic for Shaquille O’Neal and bought out by the Suns July 14. I, like most, assumed that Wallace would probably retire. But much to my surprise, Dumars signed the center for the veteran’s minimum ($1.2 million).

My shock and surprise at the Wallace resigning is rooted in his antagonistic and unfriendly departure.

It appeared to me, even talking to Wallace in the first year after he left Detroit that he was bitter that Dumars did not offer or feel that he deserved the contract that Chicago gave him.  I guess Wallace’s return proves that time heals all wounds and time has given him a reality check, too.

The ’fro is gone (Wallace now sports the short look) and so is the magic and athleticism that saw a limited player become a household name and All-Star.

No matter, Dumars and Wallace decided, let’s do it again.

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