In a way, it makes perfect sense. Overlooked and ignored at the start of his career -- Wallace spent four anonymous seasons bouncing around the league before emerging as one of the most dominant defenders of his generation in Detroit -- it's only fitting for him to be written off yet again as he nears the end.
But what first looked like a purely sentimental signing by the Pistons might prove to be so much more as Wallace makes his case for a starting job -- something that even Wallace admits has caught him by surprise.
"I had absolutely no expectations at all," Wallace told FanHouse after Sunday's win against the Hawks. "I didn't even come back here expecting to get a jersey. I'm just coming in here and working hard and whatever happens, happens."
Wallace, meanwhile, looks like one of the most fit players on the roster, and both he and Kwame Brown have earned the praise of John Kuester for helping set the tone defensively at the start of games. All preseason stats must be taken with a mountain of salt, but through three games, the Pistons have held the opposition to just 39.9% shooting from the field, winning each game.
While Kuester isn't ready to declare who his starters will be, the fact that it's even up for debate speaks volumes for how much Wallace has exceeded expectations thus far in training camp, even though Kuester was already familiar with Wallace from their season and a half together in Cleveland.
"Ben's been outstanding all [training camp]," Kuester said last week. "I'm telling you right now, the guy's still got juice. I keep telling people ... he's a leader, he's somebody that I trust, that I know is going to be able to tell me when I'm right and when I'm wrong, and his energy is contagious for our team."
In addition to energy and intensity, Wallace also brings veteran savvy to the defensive end, an important attribute in a league that has frequently adjusted the rules to facilitate more scoring.
"It's tougher, there's no question about it -- the game has changed from '04, [and] it had changed from '95," Kuester said in regards to rules prohibiting hand-checking and limiting defensive contact. "Each year it has become more of a challenge from a defensive standpoint. But by the same token, the attention to detail of what you want to get accomplished defensively has to come into play even more so. And I think that deals with how you're blocking out people, how you're contesting every shot, making sure your rotations are good, putting bodies on bodies."
That's where having a guy like Wallace can help, whether it's providing on-court leadership to his teammates on the floor, or pointers in practice to the team's four rookies.
"The guys that last in this league are the ones that can adjust," Wallace said. "You've got to change [your] game sometimes to adjust to the rules. And with the young guys coming in, it should be easy for them -- they've never really played with hand-checking or with anything like that. So this is their game. ... We're going to stay on them, we're going to try to help them through little situations and get them to a point where they can help us. Because they're the future of this team."
Regardless of what he has left in the tank -- or as Kuester likes to say, how much "juice" he still has -- Wallace recognizes this is a transition year for the Pistons, and that his greatest contribution may be the habits of hard-work and intensity that he helps instill in his younger teammates. (The early results are promising: Jonas Jerebko and Austin Daye, whose lockers are adjacent to Wallace's, have shown so much intensity that they've already earned one-game suspensions after refusing to back down in skirmishes with veteran opponents.)
"We stress defense, day in and day out. We talk about defense at practice. That's the only way you're going to be able to play on this team is to come out and play solid on the defensive end. And they grasp that; they're picking it up and now they're running with it. It makes us feel good as veterans, as a team, to see them coming along so well."
• Austin Daye wasn't happy to learn of his suspension, the result of what he claimed was inadvertent contact with Milwaukee swingman Carlos Delfino's face when the two got tangled up during a play last Wednesday. As a result, he won't be allowed to dress when the Pistons travel to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies in the regular-season opener on Oct. 28.
"It really surprised me because it was a basketball play, it wasn't really an intentional thing," Daye told FanHouse. "If I was looking at the guy -- or when they reviewed it, if they saw me glance over and then try to hit him or something -- then I could understand it. But it was really just a basketball play and a basketball reaction. It is what it is. The league's going to fine me, so I'm just going to have to deal with it and support my teammates in Memphis."
• Kuester on Jerebko's play against the Hawks: "Statistically, you can't look at what he did in regards to six points, six rebounds and 17 minutes and understand the impact that he had on the little things that we want to get accomplished, whether it be shows on the pick-and-rolls, his second and third energy effort going after the boards, whether he got it or didn't get it for other people. I was very proud of him, and I've seen that in him in practice."
• The Pistons scored seven points on buzzer-beaters to end the first three quarters on Sunday -- Rip Hamilton got things started with an 17-footer to end the first, Rodney Stuckey followed with a brutal crossover to shake his man and free him for an open 18-footer to end the half, and Ben Gordon took the ball the length of the court to hit a 32-foot three-pointer to end the third (video here).
"It's all coaching, it's all coaching," Kuester joked after the game. "It was pretty neat -- Rodney made a great play at the end of the second quarter. And you had [3.7] seconds, I think, at the end of the third, that Ben made that great move to knock down the jumper.
"That was huge, and the only reason I say 'huge' -- don't leave any possessions on the court. That's something that I think is important, and these guys are challenging themselves to do [the] little things, and did a nice job, actually."