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Nazr Mohammed has no illusions about replacing Ben Wallace. "I'm not going to try to emulate Ben's game," says Mohammed, a 6'10" journeyman center who will fill the void created by Wallace's off-season signing with the Bulls. "I'm not going to go out and try to get 20 rebounds a game or block 10 shots. I'm just going to do what I do: rebound, play solid D and score when the opportunity arises."
It was just this kind of no-nonsense attitude that prompted G.M. Joe Dumars to pry Mohammed, 29, away from the Spurs with a five-year, $30 million deal. In eight seasons Mohammed has averaged a respectable 7.1 points (on 47.8% shooting) and 5.7 rebounds in just 18.8 minutes. Two years ago he started for a San Antonio team that defeated Detroit to claim the title.
Mohammed averaged 14.4 boards per 48 minutes in 2005--06; Wallace was at 15.4. Mohammed isn't going to inspire fans to wear Afro wigs and he won't wreak Big Ben--like havoc in the lane--he's averaged more than a block a game just once--but he can do one thing Wallace can't: hit an open 12-footer. "We had to have a better inside presence offensively," said coach Flip Saunders. "If you want to beat Miami, you have to have a center who can score against Shaq."
Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince made a recruiting pitch to Mohammed even before Wallace joined the Bulls. "It definitely meant a lot to me that a team of their stature really wanted me," Mohammed says. Still, he knows he won't really win over Motown fans unless he helps the Pistons win another title.
Projected Starting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
Record: 64--18 (1st in East)
Points scored: 96.8 (19th in NBA)
Points allowed: 90.2 (3rd)
Coach: Flip Saunders
(second season with the Pistons)