He first heard from
Wallace, who played in Detroit from 2000-2006, always desired to retire a Piston, but he didn't want that to happen through a ceremonial contract. The Pistons, however, weren't interested in merely honoring Wallace -- that could wait for another day. Dumars valued Wallace for his presence, his leadership and his intensity in the locker room. Any on-court production would be a bonus from a 35-year-old center who had missed 36 games during the past two seasons with assorted injuries.
"I just wanted to him to be an example for the younger guys," Dumars said. "I thought he could still play, but I had no idea how much. I did know that, whatever he had left, he was going to give it all being back in Detroit. If there was one team that was going to get his maximum, it was Detroit."
Wallace signed for the veteran's minimum of $1.3 million in August, one month after being traded in the
"I came into this season with no expectations," said Wallace, who was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year four times in Detroit. "I didn't expect to play one minute. I was just coming in here to do whatever I could to help this team."
The Pistons have needed Wallace to do a lot, and he has answered by putting up his best numbers since the 2006-07 season. He has started all 14 games and is averaging team highs of 8.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks, along with 3.9 points (he's never been an offensive threat) and 57.1 percent shooting from the field. With Wallace playing 29.9 minutes a game as its defensive anchor, Detroit is holding opponents to 94.6 points (seventh in the NBA) and 44.3 percent shooting (ninth).
"I had no idea that he would do this on a consistent basis," coach
Kuester coached Wallace as an assistant in Detroit when the Pistons won the championship in 2004 and spent the previous season and a half with him in Cleveland. The first-year Detroit coach knew that Wallace could contribute if he remained healthy, though Kuester couldn't have anticipated a 16-rebound performance like the one Wallace had two weeks ago against Philadelphia.
"One of the things that [Cavaliers general manager]
Wallace returned to the Pistons in part to play with his old teammates again, but he has shared the court with Prince and Hamilton only once this season. Hamilton has been out since Oct. 28 with a sprained right ankle and Prince has been out since Oct. 31 with a ruptured disk in his lower back. The two players who told Wallace that he would have a big season in Detroit if he stayed healthy haven't been able to stay healthy themselves.
"He's been huge for us with me and Rip being out," Prince said. "He's playing great basketball. I know this is unexpected from a lot of people, but when he's healthy, it shows."
Wallace may have been brought in to help mentor and back up
"Even at this stage in his career, he's our best defender," guard
Wallace still appears to take the losses hard, too. After Detroit fell to the Lakers last week in the midst of a current five-game losing streak, Wallace put his head down and sat in front of his locker for about 30 minutes. Many of his younger teammates looked at Wallace on their way out of the visitors' locker room. Wallace was the last one to leave.
"I've been around for a while and I know the ins and outs of the game and the NBA life, and I try to help these guys understand that," Wallace said. "It's a long season, but I want to win. I feel better than I have in years and am able to do a lot of the things I did before. I'm not even thinking about retirement anymore."