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Tonight was all about Ben Wallace

The 2000-01 Detroit Pistons season wasn’t quite as unwatchable as this one. The Pistons played hard, they just weren’t very good. Interest in the team had hit a low point after Grant Hill’s defection to Orlando in the offseason. Jerry Stackhouse chasing a scoring title proved to give the team a bit of interest, but a previously anonymous free agent acquisition named Ben Wallace is what made the team can’t-miss for me, even if they didn’t win that often.

Wallace’s 28-rebound performance against the Toronto Raptors on April 17, 2001, even inspired me to go out and spend some of my minimum wage gas station earnings on a Pistons hat. The clerk at Dunham’s kind of smirked. They weren’t moving much Pistons merch at the time. I always took pride in how beaten up that hat was when the Pistons won a championship a few years later and everyone I knew was suddenly wearing Pistons apparel. I knew before them that Wallace was special, and I’m sure the diehards like myself out there took similar satisfaction in loving what Wallace brought to the table before the masses even knew who he was.

I’ve written at length about my fascination with Dennis Rodman’s uniqueness as a NBA player, how he could dominate a game with only a minimal involvement at the offensive end. I remember watching Rodman when I was young and thinking I would never see a player like him again. I was wrong.

Wallace was every bit the dominant force Rodman was, except with a couple of added bonuses: Wallace could protect the rim and Wallace wasn’t kind of a crazy person. The rebounds, the blocked shots, the stats … those are all obvious memories. But the more subtle Wallace moments, like him hedging out on screens better than any big man of his era (seriously … Wallace, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan are the only bigs of this generation who could single-handedly smother a pick-and-roll). He gave fantastic quotes — my favorite (sadly, I can’t find the link) came when a TV reporter asked him about being a ‘specialist.’ Wallace responded, “I’m not a defensive specialist. I’m a basketball player.”

He’s one of the toughest, rarest, most interesting players of the era. Most people have realized that by now. He’s also one of the most dominant and underrated. When the Pistons won the 2004 title, the common meme was they were a team devoid of superstars. That’s untrue. Ben Wallace was a true franchise player. He was by far the most important component of that team’s success. He’s a Hall of Fame player (trust me, I’ll be stumping for his merits just like I did Rodman before him).

Against the Spurs Tuesday, in a game in which he broke the record for most games ever played by an undrafted player, he gave a few vintage moments in the fourth quarter, nearly helping the Pistons erase a double-digit deficit and nearly (and improbably) upsetting the Spurs. He even got away with mugging Tim Duncan once for old time’s sake. He even made a 3-pointer! (Side Note: I saw him make a 3-pointer live in a game against the Wizards in 2005, one of my favorite live games I’ve ever attended).

There’s still plenty of time to say goodbye to Wallace in his final season, but time is running out. This is a lost season, but hopefully every fan is taking the chance to fully appreciate one of the most exceptional careers not only in Pistons’ history, but in NBA history.

Rodney Stuckey amazes

I have a bit of a reputation as a Rodney Stuckey hater. Admittedly, it’s a bit deserved. I am eternally frustrated by him. And the reasons why were fully on display against the Spurs.

First, a knock on him since he came into the league is he’s not a natural point guard, he doesn’t see the floor well and he can’t create well for others. But the thing is, he can do all those things. He’s a great passer when he wants to be. Twice, on semi-fast breaks, he made perfect fundamentally sound jump-stops and made beautiful bounce passes through traffic to cutters for baskets. He sees the floor. He understands how to pass well. He just doesn’t always do it.

The second criticism of Stuckey has always been about an inability to finish at the rim after absorbing contact. He frequently finishes seasons with poor percentages at the rim. Against the Spurs, he made about 80 percent of his shots in the paint. He can finish at the rim, he just doesn’t always do it.

Stuckey had 23 points, 8 assists and one turnover against a good, physical Spurs team. He shot 67 percent. He helped limit Spurs guards Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Gary Neal and Danny Green to 8-for-28 shooting. Stuckey can be a lockdown defender, he just doesn’t always do it.

There is no denying Stuckey’s talent. Tonight, he looked every bit like a potential All-Star point guard. But if he has the ability to do it against a good team like San Antonio, he has the ability to be far more consistent than he has been thus far in his career. The frustration isn’t about his talent, it’s about his willingness to play with the same effort and energy level every night.

Minimizing Prince

Tayshaun Prince‘s numbers — 8-for-16 for 18 points — look good enough. But don’t fall for that trap. When Prince was heavily involved in the offense, the Pistons looked worse.

The worst moment for me came late in the first half. After a Greg Monroe tap allowed Prince to get an offensive rebound, Monroe was set up on the block with Richard Jefferson guarding him. Monroe had a mismatch and great position. Prince had a great angle to feed him for the ball. This is what happened:

Fake pass. Fake pass. Fake pass. Kick it out to Brandon Knight to restart the offense.

It was infuriating. Monroe played poorly (more on that in a second), but one of the few times he was clearly matched up against an inferior player, the Pistons’ key veteran, a guy signed because he’s so smart and leadery, couldn’t get off a proper entry pass. Monroe looked mad and it looked like he yelled something at Prince. Good for him. That was a massive failure.

Commenter Frankie D pointed out Prince’s tendency to be overly cautious with his passes a few weeks ago as a possible explanation for why Prince has such a low turnover rate. I’d never noticed that before, but ever since Frankie mentioned it, I see it all the time. This was a perfect example.

And the Pistons clearly played better when Stuckey was pushing the ball and Jonas Jerebko was playing small forward. They played fast, efficiently and were fun to watch. That’s a major contrast to how they play when Prince is getting so many touches.

Can we stop with Monroe-Duncan?

I love Greg Monroe. He’s fantastic. But he’s not Tim Duncan. I get it. They both have average athleticism, they are both fundamentally sound on offense, they are both intelligent, quiet guys who don’t seem to crave the spotlight. But that’s where the comparisons end.

This always happens with the Pistons. They did it with Stuckey when he was younger, pegging him as a “more athletic Chauncey Billups.” They did it with Knight, insinuating he’s kinda sorta possibly the next Isiah Thomas since they’re both totally point guards who were lottery picks. Monroe has already established himself as a really good NBA player, but throughout tonight’s game, there were a handful of “Derp … Monroe is kinda similar to Tim Duncan” references throughout the broadcast. Just let Monroe be Monroe. Comparisons to all-time great players is never a winning strategy, even if there is little else to talk about.

Monroe doesn’t play passable defense yet. He’s slow on rotations, he can’t protect the rim and, as Feldman and JaVale McGee pointed out Sunday, he gets eaten alive by super athletic bigs. Turns out, he also isn’t all that well equipped to handle savvy, strong, big teams that can throw multiple looks at him. Monroe struggled early in the season against Oklahoma City when the Thunder alternated the athletic Serge Ibaka, the brutish Kendrick Perkins and the crafty Nick Collison on him. The Spurs had similar options to throw at him with Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter and Matt Bonner (don’t laugh … the dude can play some D these days). Monroe shot 2-for-11, struggled to establish position and was largely a non-aggressive non-factor against the Spurs. Monroe has been great this season, and I have no doubts he’ll continue to improve, but tonight was a good reminder of how far he needs to go to become one of the league’s truly elite players.

30 Comments

  • Feb 14, 201210:37 pm
    by Mark

    Reply

    eh, just because of 1 bad game against him, I don’t think it can be discarded as he doesn;t have a similar game as Duncan. IIRC, Monroe played great against him last year. Just an off game. Besides, I believe had Frank put him back in he would’ve gotten going eventually. He’s had poor starts before and still finish with 20-10. But w/e. He’s only 21.

    • Feb 14, 201211:23 pm
      by Daye and Knight

      Reply

      Something told me when Patrick said “can we stop with the Monroe-Duncan comparison” to just keep scrolling down…I figured YOU of all people would be the first to respond, lol.

      It’s one game…but Duncan is light years better than Monroe and its not fair to compare Monroe to Duncan….that’s some big shoes to fill

      Monroe is GOOD but he’s no Duncan and honestly I doubt he’ll even come close. That’s not a knock on Monroe, but Duncan is a Hall of Famer…I’m willing to bet my house Monroe won’t be

      I could be wrong…but I doubt it

      • Feb 15, 201212:37 am
        by Mark

        Reply

        Of course he is light years ahead, hes also light years older. I’ve never said Monroe will be as good, but he has a chance to just like any player does. For you to bet your house on a 2nd year player avg 17/10/3/2 not to get in the HOF some day is kind of foolish. When you put up those numbers in only yr 2, you do have a chance at greatness. I’d bet my house that Derrick Favors avg 8 pts and 5 rebs wont ever get in. But Monroe has as good a chance as any 2nd yr player could. Too early in his career to be saying definitevly what he cant do.

        But the comparison to Duncan is not based on talent level, its based on style of game, demeanor, fundamentals, etc. Which imo has always been a fair comparison. My personal comparison of him has always been a cross between Duncan and Webber. I think he has traits of both, but not exactly the same as either.

        • Feb 15, 201212:41 am
          by tarsier

          Reply

          It’s one thing to predict Monroe will be a HOFer, it’s another thing to predict he will be on Duncan’s level. Duncan isn’t just a surefire future first ballot HOFer, he’s also a top 12 all time player.

    • Feb 15, 201212:07 am
      by tarsier

      Reply

      Monroe could one day be a better offensive player than Duncan ever was. But he’ll never be the defender that Duncan was. No knock against Monroe, he could turn into a very good defensive player yet, but Duncan was an all-time great defender. Since Rodman, there has really only been Duncan, Wallace, Garnett, Mutumbo, and Howard in that elite category.

  • Feb 14, 201210:39 pm
    by Ryan P.

    Reply

    Ben was definitely an underrated passer as well, which speaks to his added intelligence of the game.

  • Feb 14, 201210:44 pm
    by Stuckey and whoever

    Reply

    Ben Wallace- Dude is a Legend!!  I have seen him hit three after three in warm ups a bunch, saying is that really him???  Glad to see him get one on his big night.
    Stuckey- Well you can’t blame it on the coach anymore, Frank has everyone in there best possible positions to succeed.  Including Stuckey off the ball but still possiblities to be a playmaker, which Knight and him should thrive off of.  They still need to build chemistry, Knight is super young and that will take time.  But injuries are behind him looks like, so idealy we should see more consistancy this second half of the season.  When he plays well within the offense it seems there is always a fighting chance for this team to win.  Thats how you rate player value, but if it is not consistant it helps no one including himself.  Not worried though, I have seen a more mature Stuckey this season more than any other season.  And yes you are a Stuckey hater, but the first step is pointing out you are!  LOL…jk

  • Feb 14, 201210:54 pm
    by Stuckey and whoever

    Reply

    Don’t know why the coach didn’t put Monroe back in.  Struggled shooting, but you can’t still play D and rebound???  Unless he didn’t want to go in or was hurt??  You could use this game and say well none of there post players are all stars including Duncan.  Games like these are they the reason Monroe isn’t going to the allstars??  I see him making the squad next year hopefully, and thats a pretty big accomplishment.  Third year, for a piston! that hasn’t been done sense I don’t know when!?  I agree had a bad game, but he needs to use these games, study them to push him to the next level.

  • Feb 14, 201211:27 pm
    by Daye and Knight

    Reply

    “Tonight was all about Ben Wallace”

    Tell that to ESPN lol
    #Linning

    Wallace will always be one of my favorite players and when he retires he will definitely be missed

  • Feb 14, 201211:36 pm
    by Tiko

    Reply

    what number will Stuckey wear when WALLACE’S #3 is hanging from the rafters?

    • Feb 14, 201211:52 pm
      by Daye and Knight

      Reply

      The same number he’s wearing now, after Stuckey no one would be able to wear it…just like with Monroe wearing #10 still

      • Feb 15, 20129:30 am
        by Tiko

        Reply

        thats a damn shame.  Stuckey should be ashamed to wear that number.  shoulda gave it up a while ago.  he only wears it cuz he loves Wade.  time to get off his dick and be his own man

        • Feb 15, 20123:09 pm
          by tarsier

          Reply

          Or because it’s always been his number, and when Wallace joined the Pistons, it was too late to give it up. So, since Wallace took a different number, Stuckey figured he might as well keep his.

          For almost any low number, there will be a great player who wore it. Doesn’t mean a player today wearing the number is “on his dick” as you so incredibly crudely put it.

  • Feb 14, 201211:44 pm
    by 2Tough

    Reply

    Stuckey is awful.  Not a clutch bone in his body.

    • Feb 15, 201212:23 am
      by tarsier

      Reply

      Clutch is the stupidest term in NBA fandom. Only a couple NBA players will ever have a big enough sample size to make them marginally capable of evaluation with regards to clutchness.

  • Feb 15, 20127:35 am
    by gordbrown

    Reply

    Perhaps its too much to ask to call the obvious half a dozen fouls on the Spurs when the Pistons go to the hole. Perhaps its too much to ask to not take away hoops by calling travelling or offensive interference after obvious fouls. But it is too much to ask if our players are getting injured and lying on the floor to call the obvious fouls? Is it too much to ask to refrain from calling technicals after you blow a game winning call on an obvious foul? In a game that came down entirely to free throw differential? That is all.

    • Feb 15, 20123:14 pm
      by tarsier

      Reply

      There are always plenty of bad calls going both ways. Some games, it will be considerably worse for one team than the other, but over a season, it will regress to the mean (which is 50/50). However, everyone in the league gets T’d up for vehemently protesting a bad call. That is just not an acceptable action on a player’s part.

      • Feb 15, 20125:05 pm
        by gordbrown

        Reply

        Over the course of the season, good teams get the benefit of lots of calls and bad teams just don’t. That’s one of the reason lottery balls (beyond the obvious, it’s a lottery duh) are a mugs game. And there have been so many blowouts for the Pistons (both ways) that it hasn’t made much of a difference this year. But the play in which Stuckey was fouled, not once but twice, and wound up writhing on the floor really, really pisses me off. In a four point game, that was a four point swing. There’s no excuse for that. None. And we should all email David Stern and tell him so.

  • Feb 15, 20128:02 am
    by domnick

    Reply

    im gonna wish for a number one overall pick next draft…. but this time… im going to wait and end this season….
     
    how about a Reset huh?

  • Feb 15, 20128:41 am
    by neutes

    Reply

    Pretty sure I watched every Ben Wallace highlight reel on youtube yesterday for the heck of it. Man I love that dude.

    • Feb 15, 20129:00 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      I can’t think of anything more romantic to do on Valentine’s Day than watch Ben Wallace highlights.

  • Feb 15, 20128:55 am
    by Marvin Jones

    Reply

    Monroe had a tough night, but you referenced his problem with athletic bigs, which I think is true to some degree, but you used McGee as an example and he hung 27 on McGee last game; he seemed to have learned how to use his body to shield his shot and he was taking it to McGee every chance he had; maybe that problem is behind him and he needs to start working on those savy veterans

    • Feb 15, 20128:59 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Sorry, I meant against athletic bigs defensively. He certainly did score well against McGee, but Monroe also got beat up on D by him. He couldn’t do much to stop McGee from just going up and over him for catches around the basket. Really struggled with that the entire game.

      His offense has certainly come a long way against players like McGee. His defense is still lagging way behind against athletic and non-athletic big men alike.

  • Feb 15, 201210:11 am
    by D_S_V

    Reply

    “The frustration isn’t about his talent, it’s about his willingness to play with the same effort and energy level every night.”
    Question: Do you think this season, moreso than others, the effort and energy level across the board has been very inconsistent? I’ve always tuned in to regular season basketball, and this season I’ve been able to watch more games than ever now that I realized I have NBATV. Now I can see other teams play 3 out of 4 or 5 nights, and man, by the end of that run I’ve seen plenty of teams play inconsistent basketball, poor effort, etc regardless of their Power Ranking. I’m just wondering if the compressed schedule/lockout shortened offseason is the reason behind this and that the Pistons are just like any other team that will have their off nights. It was great to see Rodney and the rest really get up for this game, but I just can’t expect that to happen on the third night of a back to back to back. Same with how much the Knicks turned Friday night’s Lakers game into a pseudo playoff game; that’s not a sustainable way to survive a team through this regular season (but boy, what a great game to see though!).

    • Feb 15, 201210:24 am
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Certainly, in general, this year’s schedule has caused more tired legs/poor energy/etc. in some cases.

      But inconsistent production from game to game has been a hallmark of Stuckey’s career from the start.

  • Feb 15, 201211:46 am
    by MrBlockedShot

    Reply

    Mixed feelings last night. On one hand you had that special Wallace night, 3 point field goal included.You also had a contender in front of you,what makes all your efforts more valuable. And you had some good performances on Stuckey and Knight. Most of all it was a close game.BUt, in the other hand you had an off night from Monroe,some bad decissions if you want to win the game (Mr Frank,keeping Ben on the court against hack-a-ben is like comitting suicide against the Spurs in a close to the wire game).anyway, another losa to add to our draft dreams and we better put that one behind cos Boston is waiting for us…

  • Feb 15, 201212:12 pm
    by Marvin Jones

    Reply

    I questioned leaving him in also, but I understand his rational, what I thought he would do was let Ben inbound the ball and just stay out of bound, I don’t know if they could have still fouled him or not but Ben has done that in the past.

    • Feb 15, 20123:17 pm
      by tarsier

      Reply

      If you’re gonna leave him out of bounds, it’s a bad idea to have him on the court. You’re playing a man down. If you’re playing him, it’s so he can get the rebound, so he’s gotta go to the rack.

      • Feb 15, 20123:36 pm
        by Marvin Jones

        Reply

        Not really, the opposing player waiting to foul him will be down there also so it will be 4 on 4, but you’re right about the rebounding.

  • […] this season, in a record-breaking performance by Ben Wallace against the Spurs, I wrote […]

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