Monday, April 10, 2006

Is Ben Wallace a bad guy, or just badly misguided?

The big local story of the weekend wasn't just the Tigers hot start or the Wings setting a road win record. What has everyone talking are the actions of Ben Wallace, or should I say, lack thereof. In one of his semi-annual fits of pique, Ben blows off Flip Saunders and refuses to go back into a close game with the Magic that the Pistons end up losing.

In watching the end of the game Friday night, I was wondering where were Wallace X2, and why in the hell was Jason Maxiel on the floor? At the time, all I could come up with was injury (which was the case with 'Sheed) and Flip wanting to see what the bench could do in crunch time. But Chris McCosky's article the next day about Ben pulling a Scottie Pippen was an eye opener, which then explained Flip's odd 4th quarter substitutions.

Now I was torn. Not that I was ever a fan of Jordan's overrated caddy to begin with, but I've ragged Pippen at every opportunity, always bringing up his refusal to go back in a game. Am I a hypocrite if I cut Ben Wallace the slack that I would never give Pippen? Probably. But it's Ben Wallace we're talking about, not Jordan's caddy. Wallace has a history of giving his all and leaving everything on the court. At the very least, Wallace is owed a 2nd chance from the fans.

It's not as if we haven't seen Big Ben go off when he feels slighted or ignored before. It's well known that Wallace hated his lack of a role in Rick Carlise's offense, where he was told to just stay out of the way and crash the boards. Remember his playoff funk of last season, where his wife supposedly, more or less, told him to get his head out of his ass and just play? Or even earlier this year, when Wallace voiced his disapproval over the Pistons' sometimes lackadasical play and his lack of touches in the offense?

The local media says that it was a one time thing, just Wallace's way of getting his point across in regard to his lack of involvement in the offense. Joe Dumars' personal media mouthpiece, Wobb Parker, says that's exactly what it was, it was just Wallace's odd way of protesting.

Wallace had reason to be frustrated. In his three previous games before Sunday, Wallace hadn't played well offensively, averaging 3.3 points and making just 2 of 9 free throws. He just didn't feel a part of the offense.

My first thought was to fine or suspend Wallace. Joe Average acts like Wallace on the job, and he's told to not let the door hit him on the ass on his way out. But we aren't in the NBA, where it's a totally different world from yours and mine. As Chuck Daly used to say, at that level, you aren't so much a coach, but a manager of 12 different corporations.

The Wallace Corporation is the face of the Pistons franchise, one that's one the verge of winning a championship. Not to forget the fact that Wallace is in a contract year, and there are a few teams that could dangle a max contact in front of Ben. So would handling Wallace's insubordination behind closed doors be a better way of managing the situation? Save everyone further embarassment and from airing dirty laundry in the media? To take a page from Festivus and air their grievances in private? From the looks of it, that's just what happened.

There's been no public apology issued from Wallace, and claims he has no regrets. Flip says he has already moved forward, it's water under the bridge, there's no rift between Ben and himself. The rest of the locker room has seemed to have already moved on as well, feeling that Ben's reaction to being pulled from the game is just something that happens during the grind of a long season. Not a peep has been heard from the front office, Joe Dumars in particular. Unless you consider Parker's column the unofficial official word, one that was most likely leaked to him from the front office...

So...Is all's well that ends well? Was it Ben just being Ben? Or is Ben Wallace's unhappiness something that bears further watching? As long as the Pistons continue to win, a multitude of sins will be covered up. For one day, all was forgotten, if not forgiven. Yesterday, the Pistons destroyed the Pacers with Ben having a huge game on the boards. What was noticable is that early on, some ally oop plays were run that looked specifically designed for Wallace. That's straight out of Larry Brown's big bag o' tricks.

We can only hope this was just a blip on the radar, a speed bump on the road to a world title. Wallace was pissed off and felt that sitting was the best, if not the most appropriate way, to get his point across. Point was taken. And we all know that a pissed off, something to prove Ben Wallace is a force to be reckoned with, as the Pacers learned Sunday. In the end, the protest just tarnishes Ben's previously unblemished reputation. Wallace's rep won't be affected all that much, but the fans will watch him with a more critical eye.


  1. Hi ich bin Chriswab aus Bottrop !! Viele Grüsse !!

  2. Are all the comments on blogger translated into German? If so that is too cool! I pretty much agree with your take. The fact that Ben is unhappy can be a good thing for Detroit, as Indiana Pacers found out on Sunday. Refusing to go into the game on Friday night is just so out of Ben's character that it was shocking. The funny thing is that Saunders is known as one of the best offensive coaches in the league, yet he can't find a way to get Ben involved in the offense. His answer was getting Ben a bunch of ally-oop attempts. But if it keeps Ben from refusing to re-enter games then so be it.

  3. I'm conflicted on this, too, because I always thought Pippen was a punk-ass for what he did. So if Ben did the same thing, what does that make him? Of course, I DO think Ben's earned benefit of a doubt, and largely earns a pass because of that.

    I'm also conflicted about involving Ben more in the offense. Yes, he should touch the ball and at least be perceived as a threat so it's not 4-on-5 out there.

    On the other hand, it might be like fitting the proverbial square peg into a round hole because, after all these years, Ben still looks so inept when he touches the ball. You can draw up plays for Ben, but what would he really do with them? So it makes sense to let him get points on alley-oops and rebounds because he's good at that.

    But I don't think anyone would disagree that Ben works hard enough to warrant some touches. It's just too bad Ben had to throw a snit to remind his teammates and coaches of that.

    Oh, and Auf Wiederstein!s

  4. I'm slowly making inroads in the world blogosphere. As you can see, I'm currently making my mark on Germany. I don't know what you said Chris, but thanks for reading!

    Dave and Ian,

    As you both note, that's the extent of Ben's range, within a foot of the basket. Flip has to walk a fine line, between giving Ben enough touches to be happy yet still keeping the offense in sync. From Ben's reaction, Flip wasn't walking that line to his satisfaction...

    As Carlise never learned and Brown quickly realized, Ben needs a few plays run specifically for him to allow him to feel a part of the offense.

  5. According to Babel Fish he said...

    "Rear one I is Chriswab from Bottrop!! Many greetings!!"

    My opinion on the Ben Wallace situation, I have already forgotten about it and when I first heard it didn't think it was as big a deal as the papers made it seem. That's the way Big Ben wants to send his message and be the team leader, fine by me!

  6. When the Pistons bring home the Larry
    O'Brien Trophy in June,nobody will care about Big Ben's blowup.And Big
    Goofy Al,or whatever you call your-
    self,what's up with all your Rob Par-
    ker bashing????Dude's a Columbia Jour-
    nalism School graduate,while I doubt
    you graduated high school(or if you did,it was one of Michigan's many
    crappy ones-there's a reason your
    state's called "North Mississippi.")