HoopsHype.com Columns

Wallace will struggle to reach lofty expectations
by Eddie Johnson / July 14, 2006

 

THE AUTHOR:
EDDIE JOHNSON

Played 17 years in the NBA for the Kings, Suns, SuperSonics, Hornets, Pacers, Nuggets and Rockets.
Won the 1988-89 NBA Sixth Man Award averaging 21.5 ppg.
NBA all-time leading scorer among players with no All-Star appearances.
He is in his sixth year as the color analyst for the Phoenix Suns broadcasts.
You can visit his website at www.jumpshotclub.com

Ben Wallace was supposedly the free-agent catch of the summer. I beg to differ. Yes, he is a stud and his work ethic is a benefit for any team. But aren't we losing sight of something here? Since when do we anoint a player who can’t score, pass or shoot free throws savior status?

Just think about it. How many more blocks and rebounds will Wallace garner than what Tyson Chandler used to? And how many more victories will Wallace bring to the Bulls to justify ridding themselves of Chandler and paying Wallace $60 million?

The Bulls are getting Dennis Rodman... without the benefit of having Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen around.

If the Bulls think Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni are the equivalent of those two great players, then somebody better wake up soon in that organization and smell the coffee.

Those are very good young players, but they are not go-to players that will take the pressure off of Wallace having to contribute offensively – like Rodman didn’t have to for those great Chicago squads.

Wallace will be the highest-paid player on the team, but the fourth or fifth best in all-around skill categories.

How will that discrepancy sit with players like Hinrich and Gordon?

Ben Wallace will find out early how much Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince meant to him and how they hid his deficiencies.

He was protected to the max in that lineup with the multitude of offensive players surrounding him. Now he has a young inconsistent team with a volatile coach in Scott Skiles to protect his weaknesses every night.

I know Pistons coach Flip Saunders can’t wait to see those weaknesses exploited, thus proving to everyone why he couldn’t play Wallace consistently against certain teams down the stretch of the season and during the playoffs.

Understand I am not a Wallace-basher. I think he is one of the hardest workers in the league, but there is a reason why... He has no choice. If Wallace didn’t work hard, he would be out the league.

He can’t shoot from outside three feet, he has no post moves, he is an adequate passer at best and he is a horrible free-throw shooter. Wallace's attributes are great weak-side defense and tenacious rebounding.

But understand this warning... If Tyrus Thomas can’t defend the ball in the post like Rasheed did in Detroit allowing Wallace to roam, then he will likely be inconsistent and stay in foul trouble – in the end, not paying the dividends they are expecting.

You have to wonder why the Pistons didn't do everything to keep Wallace. They obviously knew what they were doing when Larry Brown was allowed to leave Motown one year after winning a championship.

We saw first hand with Brown why the Pistons didn’t cry and you will see again next year why they still will not pout too much over Wallace leaving.

They know who their best interior player is and his name is Rasheed – not Ben. And although Antonio McDyess is not Ben Wallace, he is a capable defender and a much better scorer.

They also didn’t like the way Wallace was complaining about coaching strategy publicly. Wallace complained that the Pistons didn’t work hard enough on defense, but yet couldn’t Saunders complain that he didn’t work hard enough to improve his offense?

It seemed like the player whose weaknesses were being protected the most was turning on the very hand that put players around him to secure his cult status and put him in position to earn mega millions.

So now that the Bulls have invested $60 million in a player that needs more help around him than any player probably in the history of the league to justify his earnings. We will see how patient they are as an organization. And most importantly, we will see how patient those die-hard Bulls fans are now that they feel like they can contend with the best clubs in the Eastern Conference.

Eddie Johnson is a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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