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Ben Wallace is no symbol

Whether or not the Pistons and Ben Wallace mutually decide that one more season would be in the interest of both parties remains to be seen, but I think there’s a misconception out there about what he actually brings to the table.

Much of the talk about his presence is symbolic — he’d be a good mentor or role model for the young players. And I’m sure that’s true, but his on-court value is much greater. At this point in his career, he’s obviously not a big minutes guy. But he’s still a valuable defender and rebounder in a limited role and, though his offensive impact is minimal, he does help with his ball movement and offensive rebounding capability.

In today’s column for the Detroit Free Press, I wrote about why Wallace’s presence would benefit the team’s young bigs because he’d absolutely force them to beat him out for minutes, which should make them better in the long-run:

Wallace has enough skill left to offer tangible benefits to the team in limited minutes, reasonable things that they could ask their young bigs to replicate if they want those minutes, but he also doesn’t do present so towering a challenge that it would make it unrealistic for him to be out-produced by Drummond or Kravstov at some point during the season.


  • Aug 24, 20129:45 am
    by Holy Crow


    I would be watching for the Pistons to be swinging a deal for a veteran point guard like Derek Fisher.
    The only way I see Big Ben suiting up for the P’s is as maybe a trade-deadline move if it looks like he could help us get to the playoffs, but unless there is a bigger deal out there, that shakes up the roster, I just don’t see Wallace returning.

  • Aug 24, 20129:55 am
    by N1ck


    I think Monroe can be a good mentor to Drummond, Greg is very inteligent and mature as a player. No need for Ben but agreeing with Crow on the veteran PG issue. Also we have way to much guys on SF, Middleton to the DL.

    • Aug 24, 201210:07 am
      by Patrick Hayes


      Even if Middleton is sent to the D-League, his roster spot still counts for the Pistons. They can’t send him to Ft. Wayne and fill his spot with someone else.

    • Aug 24, 201212:50 pm
      by Crispus


      But Monroe can’t teach Drummond nearly as much as Ben could about defense.

      • Aug 24, 20125:44 pm
        by tarsier


        Coaches will teach Drummond defense. That’s not Ben’s job. This idea is way overstated. Having a great player on your team rarely translates to vast improvement in young guys. Have you seen the young PGs behind Chris Paul or the young SGs behind Kobe or the young SFs behind Lebron etc greatly improve as a result of having a teammate to teach them?

  • Aug 24, 20121:32 pm
    by Vic


    I agree. If it was up to me he’d start at the 5. Start him and play him  15 minutes let him set the tone. I would’ve done that last year and played Monroe at four. Wallace is a Hall of Famer treat him like one for a change. He was still technically the best center on the team even ifcan’t opulent play 40 mins.

    • Aug 24, 20121:56 pm
      by vic


      Now that he has 2 guys that can match his strength, its the perfect role for him. They can be his apprentices… a lot more than a mentor.

  • Aug 24, 20121:50 pm
    by DoctorDaveT


    I think I may be one of those to whom this post was aimed. Let me offer a reply.
    1. Ben Wallace is a Hall of Fame center. Anyone who wins 4 MVP’s is a certainty for The Hall; and so is anyone who wins 4 DPOY awards. (We’ll see if this is an accurate statement when Mutombo is ready for voting). Because of his offensive limitations, he may not be a first ballot entry, but for 6 seasons, he changed the other team’s offensive game. Sometimes singlehandedly. Check out Lawrence Frank’s comments about Ben when he was the coach of the Nets.
    2. If Ben can play 15 minutes a night, then go get it. That leaves 33 “5 spot” minutes for everyone else. I don’t care who starts and who comes off the bench. I’m thinking that BW would still be the best center (for 15 minutes) on the Pistons roster.
    3. So…. When I write that I want Wallace to mentor the young bigs on the DP roster, it isn’t as an “Alternatorz.” It’s as a power rotation player, or even a starter. As Patrick points out, part of his mentoring will be “go ahead and try to take my 15 minutes away.” How powerful is that? Especially when he’s willing to help them do it with advice, help, encouragement, and full-bore-in-your-face-scrimmaging during practices.
    4. Ben Wallace’s #3 (sorry – Stuckey needs to take it off) should be hanging from the rafters the very next game after he retires.
    How’s that for mentoring a ‘back to work’ ethic?

    • Aug 24, 20121:52 pm
      by DoctorDaveT


      One more thing: the DPs aren’t going past the first round this year; if Wallace was ‘the missing piece,’ then he absolutely would be playing as much as possible for one more ring. But he isn’t the missing piece on this team.
      This team is going to have to lose one more season; grab one more draft pick; and then be ready to go for a decade. Since that is the case, Wallace shouldn’t be taking minutes from other guys who need to learn. Of course, though, I’m fine with him playing 12-15 minutes a night, because it leaves so much more time for the young guys.
      It’s unfortunate that Wallace has one more year (could it be 2?) at this time in the DP history. He could add a lot to a championship contender.

  • Aug 24, 20122:08 pm
    by bugsygod


    Good article Patrick.   Im torn in this situation, between the known of Ben Wallace and what he brings and the Unknown of what the rookie big men will bring.  However if it was up to me, would not bring him back.  The 10-15 mins, he would play would be productive minutes, but not sure they would affect the team winning.  Dont see him getting those late game minutes like last year.  Im all in with the Rookies Drummond/Slava!

  • Aug 24, 20122:37 pm
    by apa8ren9


    “I wrote about why Wallace’s presence would benefit the team’s young bigs because he’d absolutely force them to beat him out for minutes, which should make them better in the long-run”
    Let me come at this from another way.  This point (earning your minutes) IMHO seems to be understood when it comes to Wallace and the Bigs because he has been a proven commodity.  What drives me crazy is that point of beating someone out is null and void when it comes to Mr. Austin Daye (and Macklin to a degree) whom lots of people believe should just be given minutes despite not showing any ability to beat out the likes of Damien Wilkens.  Now the COMPETITION is fiercer with better players.  Earning your playing time seems to be lost on folks. The exception however is Wallace because of his past and current limited play.

    • Aug 24, 20122:47 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      I totally agree with you on Daye. I had no problem with him sitting after his awful stretch of play to start the season. He couldn’t beat out Wilkins, you couldn’t do the one thing you’re supposed to bring to the table — shoot from long range — there was no reason to play him.

      Macklin, on the other hand, I thought had done enough in his garbage time minutes/D-League assignment to earn a bit of a longer look last season. When Macklin got spot minutes, he provided rebounding and energy. That should’ve been enough for the Pistons to give him extended minutes once or twice.

      • Aug 24, 20123:54 pm
        by bugsygod


        Who was Macklin supposed to get minutes over??? Jonas? Max? Monroe? Big Ben?  I understand your point to get a look at young guys, but if in practice he is not better than the person in front of him(and i dont think he was better than any of those guys) he doesnt play.  People try and make the rotations/playing time like rocket science.  The better player plays…period.  Not to down Macklin, too much, but he is out of the league now.  Meaning NO ONE has minutes for this guy. 

        • Aug 24, 20124:12 pm
          by Patrick Hayes


          Not saying he should’ve been put in the rotation or anything. But there were times, for example, when Ben Wallace had to sit out a game on the second half of a back-to-back or something. I think that would’ve been an easy opportunity to slide Macklin in for 10-15 minutes of non-garbage time play to see if he had anything.

          I don’t think the Pistons needed to give him a two or three week audition with those kind of minutes, I just think they should’ve tried it with a game or two, that’s all. It’s not a big deal that they didn’t, it just would’ve been an opportunity to see if he had any potential to develop into a rotation player. Chances are, he probably won’t. I just think he did enough in the very limited opportunities he did get to get a bigger look here or there. 

          • Aug 24, 20124:17 pm
            by bugsygod

            Ok i agree on that.  Funny, i dont even know what they did in those situations, now that you mention it.  Who did get Ben’s minutes?  Just shortened the rotation? hmmm….

          • Aug 24, 20124:24 pm
            by Patrick Hayes

            Actually, looking back on the box scores, Wallace’s three DNP’s late in the season, his minutes went to Villanueva, who was finally back healthy by then. Earlier in the season when Wallace need more rest, it looks like they just went with Monroe/Maxiell/Jerebko playing longer minutes.

        • Aug 24, 20124:17 pm
          by CNA5


          I think Patrick was referring to the last 10 or so games of the season when you could kinda tell the Pistons gave up a little bit.  They were out of the playoff race at that point, so he has a point about why they didn’t decide to give him a 5 minute block in the 2nd quarter just to get a look.

          • Aug 24, 20124:22 pm
            by Patrick Hayes

            Yeah, another good opportunity to do it.

            I’m not too upset about it one way or the other, but they did draft the guy and only had him under contract for one year, so I would think they’d want to get him a few meaningful minutes at some point just to see if he had anything there. But hey, maybe they saw enough behind the scenes to determine it wasn’t worth it too. That’s always a possibility.

            I don’t think they missed some grand opportunity and Macklin is destined to be decent somewhere else. I just think it’s a bit odd from an outsider perspective. But, like I said, they have far more information on the guy than I do. 

  • Aug 24, 20123:31 pm
    by Otis


    I got mixed feelings. Monroe is gonna get about 30 minutes at one of the power positions. Jerebko’s the other “big” who’s got a vise grip on a rotation spot, and we’re already drowning in depth at SF too, so his minutes will come at the 4, and he’s gonna get maybe 25.That leaves around 41 minutes available, and our remaining big men include Drummond, Slava, Maxiell, Villanueva, and uhh somehow Austin Daye (who gives new meaning to the term “stretch” four. Because it’s a STRETCH to call him that! sorry). Also, a sensible big man rotation allows for only two more guys in the rotation, so adding Ben leaves basically four guys on the outside looking in.
    The thing that drives me up the wall (or at least ONE of the many things) is that we’re constantly picking our poison. Too few reliable options, almost no well-rounded players. You can plug a Villanueva into the rotation and he’ll either carry the scoring load (1/10 times if you’re lucky) or drag the whole team down while his man carries the scoring burden for the opponent. Or you can go with a Maxiell, who’s going to give you a fairly reliable, tangible contribution, but it won’t be much.
    I have no idea how this team of at least 14 guys who “should” be in an NBA rotation (whether that’s based on draft position, potential and the need for minutes to develop, or based on the financial commitment the team’s made to them… and if Middleton comes out and plays well that makes 15) gets boiled down into a manageable rotation that makes sense. All of these guys have good reason to believe they should be playing, and you can be 100% sure that there are going to be some guys glued to the bench who are just as good as guys who get to play, but they’ll be victims of the numbers game.
    What kind of environment is this? And on a bad team, no less. It’s got to be frustrating. It’s not like you got some young wing guys who are playing behind Wade and Lebron and Battier and Ray Allen. They need to distill the talent on this team somehow and create a hierarchy that makes sense. I understand adding Ben, and I’m for it, but after they’ve shuffled things around to make room for him (if that happens), they need to do something about the numbers game so they don’t have 1/3 of their roster justifiably frustrated that they can’t get any PT over guys they play to a standstill in practice.

    • Aug 24, 20123:51 pm
      by bugsygod


      Well i think the point of competion is for two or three players to compete for a position in the rotation.  You state that 14 guys “should” be in an NBA rotation, well if the person in front of you is better, then that person plays.  I would say we have 14 NBA players, but not all should be part of a rotation.  Daye was clearly, clearly beaten out by Wilkens last year, so what rotation should he be a part of?  CV has a mysterious ankle injury(soft cant compete) most of last year so he didnt play.  This year if Jonas is better than CV, than Jonas plays, if CV is better than Jonas, CV plays.  Its pretty simple actually.  The problem is when guys are just handed minutes based on name(hamilton), contract(cv/bg) or gm/owners pet(stuckey).  L. Frank is not having any of that, he has made it CRYSTAL CLEAR, what you have to do to be a part of the rotation.  Play hard, smart and tough on defense.  If CV, bynum, daye, cannot bring it on a daily basis they should not be part of the rotation….period!  If they become frustrated at this, then they clearly know what they have to do to get in the rotation.  This is what you call an EXCELLENT environment.  Players compete for spots and minutes, nothing is given.  Look at teams like Denver, Pacers, Sixers etc.  All playoff teams with deep rotations, this is what the Pistons need to be this year.  The next guy comes in and there is no drop off in production.  Look at the old Bad Boys, think of those practices, rodman, salley, microwave, mahorn, all coming off the bench.  When you dont have a true superstar like, lebron, wade, howard, bryant, etc, you try and run out as many good players as you can and all compete at high levels.  That is DETTRROITTT BASSKETTBALLL!!!!

      • Aug 24, 20124:04 pm
        by apa8ren9


        I agree 100 percent with your assessment.  At this particular point in our team’s development we are looking for the first line/starters.  The players will sort it out themselves.  If you lose your spot you better not sulk (Daye) so that when you get another shot you FORCE the coach to play you with production.  The lack of accountability is no longer in the Pistons locker room.  If you play that means that you earned it and beat out the next guy on our roster.  That doesnt mean you are automatically better than your opponent on a given night, but a hierarchy on this roster will be established and criteria will be clearly laid out for each position. 

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