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14 Detroit Pistons Yes, they have Stack, but the rebuilding of this franchise has a foundation named Ben Wallace

Oct. 29, 2001
Oct. 29, 2001

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Oct. 29, 2001

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14 Detroit Pistons Yes, they have Stack, but the rebuilding of this franchise has a foundation named Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace was a 16-year-old high school junior clowning at a
summer basketball camp when hoops destiny barreled into him with
the force of a shoulder to the chest. Wallace was cracking wise
with his buddies at the York, Ala., camp run by then Knicks
forward Charles Oakley, when Oak summoned him onto the floor for
a little one-on-one comeuppance. "I wasn't really taking the
camp seriously, and he wanted to show me how serious basketball
really was," says Wallace. "So he beat on me a little bit, and I
beat on him a little bit, but I think he was most surprised that
I didn't back down. When he hit me underneath the boards, I just
kept coming."

This is an article from the Oct. 29, 2001 issue

That persistence made the 6'9", 240-pound Wallace the NBA's
second-leading rebounder last season. The 27-year-old power
forward is Dennis Rodman with monochromatic hair; his 1,052
rebounds constituted the first thousand-board year by a Piston
since Rodman in 1992-93. So, alongside the prolific Jerry
Stackhouse, one might think the gritty, throwback power forward
could bring Detroit back to Bad Boy-era greatness, or at least,
playoff contention. Not so fast. "I can't say how many games
we're going to win," says first-year coach Rick Carlisle, "but
it's going to take a certain kind of player to turn this program
around. You need guys with discipline, guys who are competitive
and unselfish every night. We're looking to build a tough-minded,
physical, defensive team, and Ben is one of the foundations of
that."

Obtained in August 2000 along with point guard Chucky Atkins in
the sign-and-trade deal that sent Grant Hill to Orlando, Wallace
is the rock of the Pistons' frontcourt, a role not unlike that of
his mentor, Oakley. After the two went chest-to-chest at his
summer camp a decade ago, Oakley was so impressed with Wallace
(the 10th of 11 children born to working-class parents in rural
White Hall, Ala.) that he took him under his wing, encouraging
the youngster to enroll at Cleveland's Cuyahoga Community College
and giving him a part-time job at one of the car washes he owns.
Later, Oakley helped Wallace transfer to his alma mater, Virginia
Union, where Wallace was a Division II All-America in 1996.
"People say our games are similar, but I don't know," says
Wallace with a grin. "I get all my rebounds above the rim, and he
gets all his just by scrapping underneath."

Carlisle so values Wallace that he's retooled the frontcourt to
allow him to play his preferred position, power forward, thus
sparing him the nightly burden of guarding centers who invariably
have at least three inches and 20 pounds on him. Clifford
Robinson, acquired in a trade for Jud Buechler and John Wallace,
will move to center from small forward, where he spent the last
four seasons in Phoenix. "Ben's natural position is power
forward, and that's where we're going to keep him," Carlisle
says. "Right now his comfort zone is rebounding at both ends of
the court."

Rookie Rodney White has the inside track on holdover Corliss
Williamson for the starting small forward spot. Having greatly
coveted the 6'9", 238-pound White, who led NCAA freshmen in
scoring last season at UNC Charlotte, Detroit was thrilled to
grab him with the ninth pick in June's draft. "Rodney is a
quicker, vertical, explosive-type player," says Carlisle.
"Corliss is a unique, powerful guy in that he can do some
acrobatic things and make plays off the dribble. It's helping
both guys to know that the job is up for grabs."

One job that isn't up for grabs is shooting guard. Stackhouse,
who had career highs in points, assists and three-pointers last
season, was the team's only go-to scorer. The seventh-year
veteran hoisted an NBA-high 1,927 shots and accounted for 30.4%
of Detroit's points, the highest percentage in the league. During
the off-season Stack displayed his more refined side, making an
impromptu appearance at a Troy, Mich., shopping mall, where he
sang with two members of the Backstreet Boys. There's no question
Stackhouse's one-man hardwood band will provide Pistons fans with
some more memorable solo performances this season. If Wallace
elevates his game and White lives up to expectations, Detroit, in
a year or two, could be singing a playoff tune.

--D.G.H.

COLOR PHOTO: GREG SHAMUS/NBA ENTERTAINMENT RELENTLESS Like his mentor Oakley, Wallace works tirelessly, making him one of the league's top rebounders.COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN SOLO ARTIST Stackhouse can score with the best of 'em, but if his teammates don't chip in, Detroit will rank with the worst of 'em.

enemy lines
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Pistons

"I was impressed in preseason that Jerry Stackhouse wasn't
looking to shoot every time. It looked like he was buying into
Rick Carlisle's system. If they get off to a good start, it's
going to be easier for him to buy into the idea of sharing the
ball. If they lose early, he might become the same old
Stackhouse, having to score a lot to keep them in games....
Carlisle is a tough, demanding coach, and he's not dumb. He's
played in the league, and he knows what it's like to be a
marginal player, so he should have a sensitivity of how to get
through to his team.... In preseason they were talking about
trying to run more, but they might decide to play in the
halfcourt to take advantage of the shooting of Stackhouse, Dana
Barros, Michael Curry, Chucky Atkins and Clifford Robinson....
It will be interesting to see how Zeljko Rebraca handles the
physical beating inside. In Europe he was known as a decent
scorer who didn't rebound. He's put on 20 pounds, so let's see
if he can establish some kind of defensive presence.... Ben
Wallace is sort of filling that Dennis Rodman role as the guy
who defends and rebounds. But Rodman was much more athletic and
agile, with a live body. Ben is just strong--he muscles you,
boxes you out.... If teams try to lay off Wallace under the new
zone rules, the Pistons can dive him to the basket and give him
the ball, and he'll dunk it.... Rodney White might have had only
one year of college, but he knows how to play. He's a good
passer who sees and runs the floor well."

projected lineup
2000-01 record: 32-50 (fifth in Central)
Coach: Rick Carlisle (first season with Pistons)

STARTERS
PVR* 2000-2001 KEY STATS

SF Rodney White(R)[1] 18.7 ppg 6.5 rpg 1.5 apg 1.21 spg 48.7 FG%
112
PF Ben Wallace 6.4 ppg 13.2 rpg 2.33 bpg 1.34 spg 49.0 FG%
80
C Clifford Robinson 16.4 ppg 4.1 rpg 2.9 apg 1.06 spg 1.00 bpg
70[1]
SG Jerry Stackhouse 29.8 ppg 5.1 apg 3.9 rpg 1.21 spg 40.2 FG%
12
PG Dana Barros 8.0 ppg 1.8 apg 1.6 rpg 44.4 FG% 41.9 3FG%
157

BENCH
PVR* 2000-2001 KEY STATS

F Corliss Williamson 11.6 ppg 4.7 rpg 0.9 apg 0.72 spg 50.2 FG%
151
G Chucky Atkins 12.0 ppg 4.1 apg 2.1 rpg 0.83 spg 39.9 FG%
174
C-F Zeljko Rebraca (r)9.8 ppg 7.0 rpg 0.9 apg 65.3 FG% 74.6 FT%
273[1]
G Jon Barry [1] 5.1 ppg 2.1 apg 1.5 rpg 40.4 FG% 34.8 3FG%
280
G-F Michael Curry 5.2 ppg 1.8 rpg 1.9 apg 0.40 spg 45.5 FG%
293

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 117)
(r) Rookie (statistics from Greek league)

"White might have had only one year of college, but he knows how
to play."