View Full Version : Big Ben's Piston time may be up

06-04-2006, 07:07 AM
Big Ben's Piston time may be up

[By Tim Povtak / Orlando Sentinel]

MIAMI -- There is a reason -- a good reason -- Ben Wallace recently hired high-powered agent Arn Tellem to represent him this summer in free agency.

Wallace wants to find his true worth.

And surprisingly, the Detroit Pistons might not be the team to provide that opportunity.

In a league struggling to find enough decent centers and with teams dying to build a championship contender, someone will be willing to break the bank for Wallace.

Wallace might be a four-time Defensive Player of the Year, hailed as the anchor to the amazing run the Pistons have made in the past three seasons, but there is nothing certain about his re-signing in Detroit.

For a guy who never was drafted, signed for the minimum with the Washington Wizards, was traded to the Orlando Magic for Ike Austin and later found fame and fortune in Detroit, the world doesn't always turn smoothly.

"Nothing in this league is automatic,'' Wallace said last week in Miami when asked about his pending free agency. "I was never supposed to leave Washington. I was supposed to retire in Orlando.

"Strange things happen. It's not automatic [that he will re-sign in Detroit]. You just never know what might happen.''

The Pistons and the city of Detroit love Wallace and his blue-collar work ethic -- he has become a folk hero there -- but is it wise for the Pistons to give him one of those maximum contracts (six years, $132 million)?

Is it wise to commit so much to a player who is not involved in the offense, who relies so much on pure athleticism and whose athleticism will start diminishing soon (he turns 32 in September)?

It's a quandary the Pistons will face July 1 when he officially becomes a free agent.

Yet he is the only star among a generally weak free-agent crop, making him an attractive alternative this summer for anyone with major room under the salary cap.

Only the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Bobcats would be able to clear enough space to afford him, but others could acquire him with a sign-and-trade deal, which might interest the Pistons.

"You have to listen to hear what opportunities are out there,'' Wallace said. "You have to weigh your options.

"And it's not always just about money. It's about having the opportunity to do what you're comfortable doing.''

Imagine what the centerless Bulls and Coach Scott Skiles could do if they signed Wallace, putting him in the midst of all their young, talented perimeter players. They might be playing next season in the NBA Finals.

Atlanta will find him attractive, too, bringing Wallace back toward his roots in Alabama, where his family can see him shine every game, where he could anchor a budding team.

And what better way for Toronto to regain its NBA luster than by putting Wallace between young forwards Chris Bosh and Charlie Villanueva.

Either way, Wallace has found himself in a very enviable situation, but the Pistons are in a sticky one.

Wallace just completed the six-year, $30 million contract he signed when he left the Magic, but this summer, he will sign another contract that could be three times as large.

Like many that win championships or contend seriously, the salary structure of the Pistons is changing rapidly. By keeping Wallace, they almost certainly will be paying the luxury tax for many years.

Not only that, the contract of point guard Chauncey Billups will be up for renewal after the upcoming season or the one after that.

Re-signing Wallace, at his price, isn't as certain as it would be if this was just a basketball decision.

It was a brilliant decision for the Pistons to have him the past six seasons -- prime years of his wonderful career.

It might not be the same with the next six years.

06-04-2006, 09:37 AM
Wallace should go to the Lakers.