Even as Pistons Struggle, Ben Wallace Wants to Finish Career in Detroit
If the Detroit Pistons really are going to sink to the bottom of the NBA, veteran center Ben Wallace is going down with the ship.
He isn't looking for any life vest, requesting any trade to finish his career with a contender -- like so many older players on bad teams. He is still looking for a solution.
So no, he isn't going anywhere.
"Sure, I want to play on a contender again -- right in Detroit,'' Wallace said during an interview with FanHouse Tuesday night. "I have no interest in going anywhere else. I want to finish my contract, finish my career, with the Pistons. It's where I should be.''
Wallace, still starting and defending and rebounding in his 14th season, might be the answer for a number of contenders looking to add a proven inside presence -- he could answer the prayers of the flashy-but-sputtering Miami Heat -- but he remains firm in his desire to stay where he is.
He has a contract that easily could be traded later this month, $2 million this season and $2.2 million next, but the last thing he wants is a trade.
"I've already been around that block, going to a team that thinks it can win it all (Cleveland, three years ago),'' he said. "It can be real frustrating. Sometimes those situations are not real fun to be around. It almost drove me out of the game. I want to finish right where I am now.''
Wallace, 36, nearly retired two summers ago after an unhappy ending in 2009 with the Cavaliers, who traded his contract to Phoenix to help get Shaquille O'Neal. He negotiated a buyout with the Suns and expected to retire. Injuries and his time with the Cavs had sapped his desire to play.
It was only at the urging of Pistons executive Joe Dumars, who had traded for Wallace 10 years before when he was virtually unknown, that he returned to the game -- and Detroit.
Wallace was one of the faces of the Pistons when they won the 2004 NBA title and reached the Finals the next season, too, typifying the blue-collar, no-star approach that they used so well.
He was a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, leading the league twice in rebounding and once in blocked shots, and Dumars wanted him back, to show the young guys some old-school mentality.
Wallace might be the most inspirational success story in the NBA today, an undersized, overachieving center who went undrafted but later became a shining example of what hard work and perseverance can do.
Last season he became the 17th player in league history to record at least 2,000 blocked shots, the shortest player (6-foot-9) in history to do it.
He leads all active NBA players for most games played (990) for someone not drafted. He is just 66 games away from eclipsing Avery Johnson for the NBA's all-time record.
This the same guy from tiny White Hall, Ala. who was once told he would never make it beyond his rural high school, let alone make millions in the NBA.
"All my life, I've been beating the odds. I was the first from my family to leave home and go to college. I made an NBA team when no one thought I would. I became an NBA starter, then got the opportunity to win an NBA championship,'' he said. "People always doubted me, but I've always prided myself on being able to go above and beyond expectations."
Wallace is averaging a modest 25 minutes and 2.9 points, but still anchoring a defense and averaging 7.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. He had nine rebounds in a loss to Orlando on Tuesday, and he was a big reason why All-NBA center Dwight Howard was held to a season-low nine points, 12 below his average.
"When I leave, I just want people to say he worked hard, did everything he could, and that he was always willing to take a challenge,'' Wallace said. "But right now, I just want to get this turned around in Detroit. We're not good enough to have one man carry this team. It's got to be together. That's the way it's always been with me. You work hard enough, and things work out.''