Thursday, July 13, 2006

NBA Teams Usually More Than A Ben Wallace Away From Glory

The last piece to a championship puzzle?

If there is any team in the entire NBA that can honestly say, "We're a Ben Wallace away from winning a championship," then that team is either: A) lying to us; or B) lying to themselves. There's a "C" option, too -- but it's just plain lying.

It is my opinion that the Chicago Bulls are performing option B.

Today the Bulls will make it official, with an evening press conference set to formally introduce Ben Wallace as their new starting center -- at the price tag of a cool $60 million spread over four years. The Pistons had offered, according to sources, about $10 million less than that. See ya.

Wallace is a unique talent -- even freaky. He's a big, powerful man who can, in one possession, defend, block shots, rebound, and draw fouls. He can't shoot free throws, score consistently, or pass especially well.

All that's special -- and frustrating in a mesmerizing way. But is that the one last player you need to scale Mt. NBA?

History says that teams rarely -- if ever -- use as their last, "key" pickup, a player who fits most of Ben Wallace's attributes. That last ingredient is typically a scorer of some sort. It's not a "good field, no hit" type of player. But the Bulls have 60 million reasons to argue with me, so I'll let them.

The prevailing wisdom -- at least it's a theory that I think holds the most water -- is that the Bulls hope to pull a double whammy here: Strengthen themselves, and weaken a divisional rival at the same time. The fact that the rival is the Detroit Pistons is, I presume, playing out very well in Chicago.

Well, OK -- I can buy into that. But the Bulls are NOT just a Ben Wallace away from winning the whole kit and kaboodle, no matter what they've done to the Pistons.

But yet there Wallace was, the supposed crown jewel among this summer's free agent class. A walking 9.0 PPG average. A bushel full of rebounds. A masonry's license for his work on the free throw line. A human "No Trespassing" sign, defensively. A terrific player, for sure -- in that system (the Pistons').

Whether Ben Wallace can maintain his reputation as a great defensive player and keep the lane clear of trespassers, while wearing the red and black of the Bulls and surrounded by a few more miscreants -- the coach included -- than he was used to playing with in Detroit, remains to be seen. It says here his effectiveness will take a slight hit, and he'll find it not quite as easy to blend in.

But the Pistons will take a hit, too -- so I guess mission accomplished, Chicago.

A $60 million mission, but a mission nonetheless.

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