It didn't take
free-agent center Ben Wallace more than a handful of pickup games to get used
to his new teammates. "Man, I'm excited," he says. "Playing against
these guys the last couple of years, they remind me a lot of the way we played
when we won the championship."
Taking a page out
of the Pistons' playbook--and dealing a blow to his rivals--is just what
Chicago G.M. John Paxson envisioned when he wooed Wallace from Motown with a
four-year, $60 million contract. The Bulls made the playoffs the past two
seasons with a hard-nosed defense and a share-the-wealth attack similar to
Detroit's. The only thing missing was an established veteran to lead the
it has that in the 6'9" Wallace, a four-time All-Star. Big Ben gives the
Bulls a true monster of the midway who clogs up the lane and enables them to
extend their D. Chicago was No. 1 in the league in opponents' field goal
percentage but 19th in points allowed. "Now we've got a guy back there who
blocks shots and intimidates," guard Kirk Hinrich says. "He's going to
help everybody's game."
how much Wallace, 32, has left in the tank. They also point out that he doesn't
address Chicago's biggest problem: a lack of scoring in the low post. What
Wallace does bring, though, is a burning intensity to the United Center. Along
with a talented young nucleus, that should be enough to give Chicago a shot at
its first extended postseason run since the end of the Michael Jordan era.
"We're going to have to come together quickly," says Wallace, "but
I like our chances." .
Starting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
(T6 in East)
97.8 (T13 in NBA)
with the Bulls)