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Ben Wallace Reflects on the Pistons

Apr 27, 2009 – 6:30 AM
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Matt Watson

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Ben WallaceFor the first time in seven years, the Pistons will not make an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals -- and it's only fitting that Ben Wallace was present to witness the dismantling. He was the foundation of Detroit's first four appearances, the face of the franchise up until the moment he left as a free agent three summers ago before ultimately landing with the Cavaliers at the 2007 trade deadline.

Even though a lot of Detroit fans haven't forgiven him for leaving, he clearly enjoys coming back. After seeing him roam the hallways behind the scenes this weekend, I can understand why: he's still greeted warmly by former teammates, locker room attendants, Pistons front office staff and even members of Detroit's media. It may be easy for jilted fans to switch allegiances on a dime, but as explained this weekend, the bonds he formed during six long years in Detroit will always be there.

"Those were some of my fondest memories," Wallace said, "playing as a Piston and the team we had and the chemistry we had, how everybody just went out and just played for each other. Even after I'm finished and done, those are always going to be some of my fondest memories, playing with that team and the way we just went out and played and got it done."

The rest of his conversation with the media, which took place before Game 3 on Friday, follows:

Ben WallaceReporter: What's it like to see them struggle?

Ben Wallace: It's tough. Usually when you leave a team and you come back and play against them or whatever, you want to win and you want to rub it in -- you want to get those bragging rights, you want to talk a little trash. But it's tough.

Some of the guys are hurt -- Sheed is hurting, Tayshaun is hurting. I still want to win, but I just hate to see the guys out there hurting. When it's all finished and done, those are always going to be some of the guys that I'm going to pick up the phone and call and see how they're doing.

Reporter: Have you talked to any of them recently or in the last couple of weeks?

Ben Wallace: Oh yeah, we talk all the time. I'm about to borrow one of Rip's cars tonight. (Laughter) No, but we've always been a close group. We said even when we were playing together that after this thing was over with that we were still going to keep in touch, check on each other, see what the kid's are doing, see how the family's doing. That's priceless. You don't usually get that in this league.

Reporter: Do you think that chemistry that you guys had in '03-'04 would be hard to duplicate ever again?

Ben Wallace: No, we have it in Cleveland right now. You can't tell? (Laughter) I think that's one of the keys to our success [this year] -- everybody is pulling for each other, everybody genuinely likes each other. Off days, even after practice, we got guys that are still in the gym two and three hours just hanging out, just talking. I think that's what this game should be about, you should really enjoy the moments that you can get to know your teammates, get to know their family, let them get to know your family and just go out and have fun.

Reporter: In your opinion, which team is stronger: the 2004 Pistons or the current Cavaliers?

Ben Wallace: Right now, the Pistons, because they won a championship. We haven't won a championship yet with the Cavaliers, so that's a tough question to answer right. But after this thing is over and done, then I'll let you know. (Laughter)

"It was just time for me to move on. I mean, me and the coach were bumping heads, and you know, that's not me. I want to go out and play basketball."
- Ben Wallace
Matt Watson: It seems like the fans [in Detroit] still get on you, but looking at it in hindsight, I think that it's pretty clear now that -- even though people didn't realize it then -- when you left, that was the end of the Pistons as we know it. They had some success after, but do you feel vindicated at all?

Ben Wallace: I mean, it was ... (pause) ... it was tough. It was a tough decision to make because I came here and they allowed me to go out and do what I do and I appreciate the fans every night for coming out and cheering for me when I was here. It was just time for me to move on. I mean, me and the coach (Flip Saunders) were bumping heads, and you know, that's not me. I want to go out and play basketball, I want to have a little fun, so it was time for me to move on.

But when I left this team, it was still a good solid team. I think they made some changes over the years that really hurt them. The Chauncey Billups trade, I think that hurt him because they got nothing in return. They got Iverson but he's hurt, he's not playing, so he's not helping the team, so really they don't have anything. I enjoyed my time here with the fans, man. We're always going to have that love/hate relationship.

Matt Watson: I know if you talk to a lot of fans outside of the arena, they'll say those were some of their fondest memories of the Pistons -- you guys were so good then. Over time, do you think that rivalry is going to die down once you stop playing?

Ben and Rasheed WallaceBen Wallace: If I had to stop and retire today and came back here and announced my retirement, I don't suspect that there would be one fan in the building who would boo me. But now, I am the enemy coming in here, so I expect them to boo me because I know what they did to teams when they came here playing. And I respect that.

Matt Watson: There was a time when I was convinced that your number would probably be hanging in the rafters here someday. Do you think maybe 10 years down the line when things die down you'll come back and see that happen?

Ben Wallace: Who knows? That's something that I can't control and it's out of my hands, but maybe one day. I would appreciate it.

Matt Watson: You keep in touch with a lot of your [former] teammates, but do you ever talk to Joe [Dumars] at all?

Ben Wallace: Yeah, I talk to Joe all the time. All those guys, I talk to all of them. I talk to Joe, Mike Curry – I played with Mike Curry – I knew all those guys. And after this day is said and done, we'll all continue to talk to each other. I consider those guys my family.
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