Opponents shot 42.5% from the floor in the 74 games that Ben Wallace played. In the eight games he missed because of injury or suspension, foes shot 47.5%.
Record: 54-28 (2nd in East) Points scored: 93.3 (24th in NBA) Points allowed: 89.5 (2nd) Coach: Flip Saunders (first season with the Pistons)
Life after Larry Brown won't be bad, specially for an underused bench
The Pistons made few changes to their roster, but point guard Chauncey Billups would have you believe that the club has undergone a major makeover. Reserves buried at the end of the bench last season will get more minutes, creating a deeper rotation. More significantly, the departure of a coaching icon has made them hungrier than ever. "We're going to miss Larry Brown, but so many times it was just about Larry," says Billups of the 65-year-old coach, who at first appeared on his way to the Cavaliers but wound up with the Knicks. "It was always, 'Larry did this, Larry did that,' with the result that I don't think the players got enough credit."
The controversial departure of Brown, who had three years left on his contract, has given way to the low-key approach of new coach Flip Saunders, who helped resurrect Billups's career when the two were together for two seasons in Minnesota. Now Billups is returning the favor. "Chauncey is working with the guys and helping to explain what we're trying to accomplish," says Saunders, who was fired by the Timberwolves last February. "This is a team that polices itself. They have a high basketball IQ."
During his 10 years in Minnesota, Saunders was adept at carving out valuable roles for players who, like Billups, had been overlooked elsewhere. That augurs well for Pistons reserves such as Carlos Arroyo, Carlos Delfino and Darko Milicic, all of whom had trouble earning minutes in Brown's seven-man rotation. "We're going to be deep like we were in our championship year [2003-04]," vows Billups. "Last year we played our starting five, and it seemed as if Lindsey [Hunter] and [Antonio] McDyess were the only people who played consistent minutes off the bench."
-- Ian Thomsen