Friday, June 2, 2006
Wallace upset about benching, coy about future
By Chris Sheridan
MIAMI -- "I'm pretty sure everyone knows where my heart is," Ben Wallace finally conceded after ducking nearly every question about his future that came his way.
"It's in my chest," Wallace said.
But will that heart and that chest remain committed to the Detroit Pistons?
Wallace wouldn't go so far as to say anything resembling those words.
The three-time Defensive Player of the Year was coy, curt and far from candid Friday night after the Pistons' season ended with a Game 6 loss to the Miami Heat, and the prospect of its being Big Ben's last game in a Pistons uniform was a notion he wouldn't quash in the aftermath of the defeat.
Wallace becomes an unrestricted free agent as of July 1, and it has widely been assumed -- in large part because of Wallace's public statements -- that he'll return to the franchise where he turned from a journeyman to a centerpiece.
All Wallace needed to say Friday night was that he wanted and expected to return, but he wouldn't go even that far while initially ducking questions about his future and then giving a few vague answers before exiting the locker room and getting on the team bus that would take the Pistons to the airport for the long flight back to Detroit.
After firing his old agent and saying he planned to have an attorney (billing on an hourly basis rather than taking a percentage) negotiate his new deal, Wallace went out last month and hired one of the most powerful deal brokers in the business, Arn Tellem.
"I needed an agent, that's all that is," Wallace said. "You know, everyone needs somebody to talk for them every now and then. They get tired of hearing your voice."
That statement was a lot more than Wallace would concede at the start of his interview, answering a somewhat vague question about what happens next with a curt "Next question."
When the subject was broached again with the query, "Is there a chance you might leave the Pistons?" the only answer Wallace gave was "Anybody got any other questions?"
Wallace did allow that he was upset at being benched the entire fourth quarter by coach Flip Saunders, and it seems safe to discern that the relationship between the center and the coach is far from bucolic. But will that be enough to drive Wallace from Detroit once July arrives and the teams with enough cap room to overpay him, Chicago and Toronto being the main possibilities, decide to come knocking at his door?
"When you say everyone knows where your heart is at, is that Detroit? Could you spell that out?" a reporter asked Wallace.
"I don't know," he replied before tossing out that line about his heart being in his chest.
Maybe, just maybe, his heart is not in Detroit as much as everyone thought. If it's not, that sure will make for an interesting free agent season.
Chris Sheridan, a national NBA reporter for the past 10 years, covers the league for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.