Still the Same

Ben Wallace going out in a way that does him and the Pistons proud

Ben Wallace still produces for the Pistons and leads the way for the team's younger big men.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images
Ben Wallace has made it clear that this will be his final season wearing an NBA uniform. As difficult as it is to think of not having him around any more, it’s sure nice to see Ben go out looking like the same old Ben Wallace. This is a guy who has a very legitimate chance to make the basketball Hall of Fame – as far as I’m concerned, he should make it.

The way he impacted the Spurs game this week, when he set the record for games played by an undrafted player, and then came back – on a back to back and with a short night’s sleep – and had so much to do with the win in Boston the very next night speaks volumes about what he’s really all about.

The way Ben finished the game on Tuesday, when he played 18 straight minutes, I’m sure some coaches would have wondered how much he had left in his tank. But Lawrence Frank has seen enough of Ben Wallace over the years from the opposing bench to really, truly believe he knows what Ben’s about and he felt comfortable playing him against the Celtics.

I don’t think he was shocked to see how much Ben still had for night number two. He got 11 rebounds in that Boston game and the Pistons turned up the defense. If you’re going to finish defensive stops, you better get defensive rebounds. And that’s not all he did. He was everywhere on the court, very physical, and he really helped the Pistons pick up their defensive intensity.

I know Joe Dumars knew that Ben Wallace could be a big help in turning things in the right direction this year in Lawrence Frank’s first year. I feel like Ben wanted to do one last, important thing for this final year, even though he knew after this it was off to playing with the kids and hopefully going to law school. This was an important thing for Ben – and it’s clearly been an important thing for the Pistons.

We can see it on the floor. What we don’t see at the games each and every night is what Ben does in practice and what Ben does to help the younger players like Greg Monroe move on up in terms of their ability and their intensity and their basketball intelligence. Ben Wallace brings all of that to the table. When you have that much knowledge and you’re around people, they can’t help but learn something even if it’s just by osmosis. But it’s not just by osmosis, because Ben is going to make every effort every time he’s around teammates to inspire them and to educate them in the ways of winning NBA basketball.

You can’t watch how hard Ben Wallace works and not go look at yourself in the mirror and think, maybe I should work a little harder. Jonas Jerebko said it best after the Spurs game when he set the record. He said it was an honor to play with him. That’s a heck of a tribute. I know Jonas truly means it. He has learned so much from Ben. Ben took one look at Jonas, with his effort and love of the game, and realized that Jonas was somebody special. Ben has really worked with him and we’ve seen the results of that. Jonas has become a very important Piston.

As for me, every time I watch Ben Wallace walk onto the court this year, I know it’s a blessing. We just saw him play for the last time against Tim Duncan and the Spurs and we hearkened back to the great ’05 Finals that went seven games. When I see him play against the Boston Celtics on the parquet floor, I think of the great Pistons-Celtics matchups over the years and how much Ben has had to do with it. There are a lot of historic things going on right now and all of them have to do with Ben Wallace playing his final season in Pistons blue.

It’s been an honor for me to broadcast his games all these years. I’m so glad he came back and so glad he’s given us this final season. I don’t think the excitement and his heroics are over, either. We’re going to see some great performances again this year before Ben Wallace walks away that last time.