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Win or lose, Ben Wallace is the single greatest thing about the Detroit Pistons

I could talk about how opposing starting point guards have shot 17-for-23 against the Pistons in consecutive nights. I could talk about how the Pistons blew a 25-point lead in the second half. I could talk about how the Pistons scored 43 points in a quarter tonight and still ended up losing. I could talk about how they’ve lost consecutive games to two teams that everyone knew would be laughingstocks of the league heading into the season.

But everything that went wrong in the Pistons’ 120-116 loss to the Raptors has been covered before. Over-reliance on jumpshots. Poor perimeter defense. A questionable rotation. There’s several different things that could be delved into. But it’s Saturday, I’m tired and I’d much rather just talk about Ben Wallace.

Frequently, as the Pistons lose more games and more and more fans hop off the bandwagon for the season to do whatever it is fans do when they hop off a bandwagon, this question comes up: what reason is there to watch this team?

Admittedly, it’s a hard question to answer. Veterans like Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince could clearly use a change of scenery to finish their careers helping better teams make playoff pushes. Young players Greg Monroe and Austin Daye, who are vital to any future success the team may have, are glued to the bench in favor of veterans who don’t seem to figure into long-term plans (Prince and Tracy McGrady in Daye’s case, Jason Maxiell in Monroe’s case). The team often plays careless basketball where it appears that many of the guys who step onto the court would rather be doing anything else but playing for this team. If the players don’t look happy to be here, how can fans be expected to grin and bear things?

The answer, for me at least, is Wallace. One of my favorite Pistons teams of all-time was the group of mismatched guys who played for George Irvine in the 2000-2001 season. They were bad. They didn’t play particularly hard all the time. They had guys who, obviously, were not going to be Pistons for the long haul. They’d just lost a face of the franchise player in Grant Hill, much like this version of the Pistons is still reeling from losing face of the franchise Chauncey Billups. But I watched that team, which finished 32-50, for one reason: Ben Wallace. I couldn’t look away, no matter how many times Jud Buechler got into a game or how badly the three-headed-point-guard of Chucky Atkins, Mateen Cleaves and Dana Barros shot the ball. Hell, even power forward Joe Smith shot 40 percent that year. It was brutal, brutal basketball.

And yet, right there, usually hanging out on the court with guys like Ced Ceballos and Billy Owens, collecting some of their many, many errant shots, was Wallace, busting his ass, playing with pride and just plain being fun to watch.

A decade later, the Pistons are terrible once again, without an identity once again, and yet there’s still Wallace, one game after getting benched for no particular reason (sorry John Kuester, but Wallace does not need a full game off to “rest”), at 36-years-old, going out and scoring a career-high 23 points, grabbing 15 rebounds, collecting five steals and four assists and making a mid-December game against another team that is already all but a guarantee to be out of the playoffs, enjoyable to watch.

The Pistons are in bad shape, and I don’t know if anything can be done this season to make the roster more balanced or shake the team out of the malaise it has been in since the first preseason game. But I do know that as long as Ben Wallace is on the team, I have a reason to continue watching the Pistons, to continue hoping that just a bit of his pride rubs off on his more listless teammates and hoping that the team can string together some wins, not because I think they’re good enough to contend, but anyone who plays the way Ben Wallace plays deserves to have a team around him that cares just as much as he does.

18 Comments

  • Dec 11, 201011:49 pm
    by Alan

    Reply

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  This just can’t be Ben Wallace’s team.  It can’t.  We can’t count on a 36-year old, 15-year veteran who earns $1.9mm to have a monster game to keep us competitive with the Toronto Raptors.  He can support this team.  Clearly he can do that and doggone we wan’t that for as long as he’ll give it to us.  But somebody has to lead this team and be a cornerstone.  I don’t see that on this roster and I doubt anybody does.
     
    The next big move will be our April lottery selection in a thin crowd as most college players will stay in school to avoid a lockout (just our luck).  In the meantime, any small moves will be just that, small moves to compliment an arriving superstar (we hope so) to replace our beloved superstar aka Employee Number Six.

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by PistonPowered Feed, Patrick Hayes. Patrick Hayes said: From @PistonPowered: Win or lose, Ben Wallace is the single greatest thing about the Detroit Pistons http://bit.ly/hKxant [...]

  • Dec 12, 20101:40 am
    by kent

    Reply

    Even though we lost tonight, i had fun watching this game because of Ben Wallace.  I love it when he scores 2 or 3 baskets and feels empowered to start posting up, calling for the ball, attempting spin moves, reverse layups and fall-away jumpers.  It’s usually pretty entertaining.  However, tonight the shots were falling and the moves were working.  I was laughing my @ss off. 

    Clearly, the team was enjoying it too.  The bench was howling it up, and Rip kept feeding him the ball in the third quarter to see what other unlikely offensive prowess Ben could put on display. Ben had a great game, but perhaps the Pistons should have been more focused on winning the game.  The rest of the team seemed to have checked out when they thought the game was over.  Rick Mahorn was on NBA TV tonight previewing the game, and he said, “It all depends on whether the Pistons play for 48 minutes.” The Pistons sure made him look like a genius.  Too bad Detroit wasted such a great night from Ben Wallace.  I dont think we’ll see that again.

  • Dec 12, 20105:13 am
    by Laser

    Reply

    it’s nights like this that make me so happy to be alive i could just die. the air is a little fresher, food tastes a little better, there’s a spring in my step… because for the first time in years, this team has managed to surprise even ME! i have more to say, but for now i’ll let that soak in for a while. i’m going to savor going to bed knowing that the universe is still so full of wonder, brimming with unforeseen possibilities, overflowing with mystery, even for one such as myself. tonight i am reborn. god bless us all.

  • Dec 12, 20108:12 am
    by gmehl1977

    Reply

    Someone better check and make sure Laser isn’t hanging from the rafters in the morning. Seriously somebody should check on that!

  • Dec 12, 20108:33 am
    by JoshB

    Reply

    Laser is fine. Since he can’t watch a contending team he chooses to find his joy in rooting against the team, and pointing out all the obvious bad things about this team. He’s just in euphoria from the epic collapse last night that even he didn’t believe was gonna really happen.

  • Dec 12, 20108:49 am
    by JoshB

    Reply

    My real reason to get on here and post today though is to say I agree with you Patrick. I’ve been watching this team long enough to see them be very good, very bad, and mediocre, and as a longterm diehard fan you have to sometimes find things to focus on when the overall producton the floor is not worth watching. I care too much to entirely turn away, so when necessary I find other things to focus on to minimize my frustration. Ben has always been a prefect outlet for that. I just wanna watch somebody out there working their butt off, and looking like they care at leas as much as I do.

  • Dec 12, 201010:19 am
    by detroitpcb

    Reply

    fire Q. Trade Rip, Tay, Ben Gordon & Max. Insert Monroe & Daye into the starting lineup.

    only a masochist could watch this team.

  • Dec 12, 201010:22 am
    by Brett

    Reply

    @Alan…last night was the night when my focus officially began to shift from maybe staying competitive this season to “who will we get in the draft” mode.  December 11…I don’t know that I’ve ever cashed in an NBA that early, don’t get me wrong, I will still be watching, but I will be watching knowing that there are no meaningful games coming anytime soon.

  • Dec 12, 201010:32 am
    by Slappy

    Reply

    I watched the first half of yesterday’s game (before the implosion), and I too was overjoyed to see Ben out there making energy plays like the old days. He’s the epitome of a person who maxed out the talents that he was given. Love seeing how hard he continues to work.
    Definitely sad to see the direction the team is going in right now, but I’ll still be here cheering for them. The Pistons have been down before, but I’m confident they will find a way back. It may take some time, but I’m not going anywhere. Until then, I can just start teaching my 3 year old daughter how to be a beast on defense like Ben Wallace.

  • Dec 12, 201011:26 am
    by brgulker

    Reply

    Excellent piece. agreed on all fronts.

  • Dec 12, 20101:41 pm
    by AtotheK

    Reply

    thanks for writing something postive, if anybody in the organization this year is still around 2 seasons from now, i hope its 38 year old ben. i only get to see one game vs. indiana at the end of the season on nat’l tv, i dont know who will be on the team, or if our young talent will be getting minutes, but i hope very selfishly that ben isnt dealt to a contender so i can see him play in a pistons uni again.

  • Dec 12, 20102:21 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    two things after the mot restful night sleep i’ve had in ages…
     
    1) not to be critical or take anything away from big ben, but i do think this was such a fascinating game with so many interesting twists and turns, such an amazing anomaly of a game… raps trailed by 19 at the half but were shooting 65%!! just turning it over (14 times) and we cashed in (for 29 points), we took 19 more shots than they did, stuckey had another phantom stat line in a loss against a team missing their starting PG, daye sat on the first half of this back-to back and bynum’s minutes were limited, yet they combined for like 13 minutes last night in case you wanted to point to “tired legs,” big ben’s triple to end the game (SWISHED it too)! so many storylines and nuances and twists and turns. the pistons truly hit rock bottom, and if they weren’t under lame duck ownership, heads certainly would have rolled by now. this game was all you needed to see of the whole season. it was certainly worthy of its own full recap. just saying…
     
    2) sad state of affairs, but the fact that you might be right about ben being the best thing about the pistons is as damning as it gets. he’ll never be a part of a successful pistons team again, and i don’t even know how much of an impact he can still have on the team’s future, given the team’s state of utter disrepair. so saying ben is the best thing about the team is utterly depressing, and yet i can’t disagree. at least one piston is interested in entertaining people.

  • Dec 12, 20108:05 pm
    by nuetes

    Reply

    I’m so mad I missed this game. Ben Wallace went off. Course I would have been upset all first half, and then tuned out by the 4th just to miss the best part.
     
    Bargnani must be even worse than I thought, and I thought he was pretty bad.

  • Dec 12, 201011:16 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    cripes, guys. i hate to be the bearer of bad news (i don’t hate to be the bearer of bad news), but i just took a look at the upcoming schedule (gonna be a LOOOONG season, too) and just discovered that, of all things, our last six games are against bad eastern conference teams that figure to be well out of the playoff race (if they aren’t already). now i’m not going to accuse other teams of throwing meaningless games in order to better their lottery position (as if that’s any kind of indictment anyways), but you can be damn sure those teams are going to be in “looking ahead” mode, a mode completely alien to joe dumars and the pistons, and playing their young players heavily to develop them and just plain see what they have. meanwhile the pistons, having absolutely kissed the season goodbye in early december (worst start through 25 games in franchise history with no real hope for significant long-term or short-term improvement) will bust their asses and ride their veterans to victories in at least another 4 out of the last 6. daye will hardly get off the bench, and the draft pick we end up with will be less promising than greg monroe. that’s my early prediction.

  • Dec 13, 20102:25 am
    by nuetes

    Reply

    ha way ahead of ya laser. a couple weeks back i looked at that and all i could do was shake my head. i still think the pistons are going to win close to 30 games, and it’s not even that they are any good. they are terrible, but so are a lot of other teams. of course it does help to lose to minny and toronto back to back. that did take some of my fears away. with so many bad teams there’s going to be some good competition for the lottery. if the pistons rack up a bunch of wins in the last 6 games they could go from top 3 pick to sitting around 8-10 like that. there’s going to be a ton of teams grouped together with terrible records.

  • Dec 13, 20101:37 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    yeah i decided not to sweat any wins, because we’re sure to get about thirty of them, and i don’t want to unnecessarily piss myself off that many times in a six month span. but that was still a serious bummer, since no matter how you slide it those teams are going to do a better job losing games than we will.

  • Dec 13, 20101:39 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    slide = slice. but you probably already knew that.

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