The Sheed Show
The fans’ reaction was neither as hostile as Ben Wallace’s return as a Chicago Bull in 2007, nor as exultant as Chauncey Billups’ return as a Denver Nugget last March.
But it was a loss, which put Wallace in familiar company. He became the third starter from the Pistons’ 2004 championship team to lose his first game back at The Palace.
“I don’t know what [to think], I guess it’s just the garbage talking,” Wallace said after Boston’s 92-86 loss to the Pistons. He said he realized the history he was up against when he walked into the visitors locker room.
The first Celtic introduced by PA announcer Mason, Wallace received an enthusiastic ovation.
“It was cool, definitely wonderful, letting me know the fans here still love me as a player,” Wallace said. “It was pretty cool, pretty cool.”
Wallace paid homage to the fans by ending his introduction with a brief dance, an extended version of which used to be his part of his popular pregame routine. Except this time, there were no Pistons huddled around him.
“I still do it a little bit, just not as much, that’s all,” he said.
Once the game was underway, Wallace took no offense to the fans rooting against him.
“That’s how it’s supposed to be,” he said. “How would that look, with a player who used to play here, every time that player scores or get a bucket or whatever, they cheer, or if I’m on the line, they’re quiet? It wouldn’t look right.”
Signs of the times?
Wallace, who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, had some rough moments Wednesday, none bigger for Detroit than when Jason Maxiell blocked his dunk attempt in the third quarter.
Then he watched 25-year-old forward Charlie Villanueva – who has often been characterized as a “young Sheed” for his 3-point range at 6-foot-11 – drain the triple that gave the Pistons a seven-point lead with 55 seconds remaining, icing the game. Villanuea finished with 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including three triples.
“Chuck hit a couple 3s, he did alright for them,” Wallace said. “He didn’t do nothing extravagant.”
Maxiell’s block – just his second over the last eight games – may have been the turning point of the game. The Pistons outscored Boston in the third quarter, 21-13.
One of Wallace’s closest teammates on the Pistons, Maxiell had an exceptionally strong game with 12 points, three rebounds and two steals. But Pistons coach John Kuester wouldn’t attribute anyone’s effort to the anticipation of facing Wallace.
“I was excited to see Rasheed, but I’m excited for every game,” he said. “I think the players enjoy playing quality teams like Boston, but they understand that we’re at a stage right now where we’ve just got to work hard.”
Before the game, Kuester, a Pistons assistant coach in 2004, fondly recalled when he heard the news that they had acquired Wallace at the trade deadline. “[Head coach] Larry Brown looked at me and said, ‘We just got Rasheed in a trade,’ and I said, ‘You just got yourself a chance to win a championship.’”
Both former North Carolina players, Kuester and Wallace had not crossed paths prior to Wallace’s arrival in Detroit. “I knew him but I hadn’t had an opportunity to be real close to him,” Kuester said.
Though Wallace’s mouth has drawn the ire of fans and the attention of the NBA office – he received another $35,000 fine Tuesday for (surprise, surprise) criticizing officials – Kuester praised Wallace as one of the “top three talkers” in the NBA when it came to conveying defensive strategy. The other two? LeBron James and Kevin Garnett.
“Probably one of the best, top three talkers I’ve ever been around in the game in regards to how they talk defensively – understanding the rotations, understanding situations, and being able to talk even when he’s on the bench, trying to get guys into the game,” Kuester said.
Kuester, who retained Wallace’s college teammate, Pat Sullivan, on the staff when he took over last summer, has Wallace’s respect.
"Carolina,” Wallace said. “There’s nothing else to say."