Revisiting the Ben Wallace SigningIt seems like "everybody knows" that Chicago made a mistake signing Ben Wallace, who is rapidly becoming the poster child/scapegoat for the underachieving Bulls. However, as Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune points out, "It's much easier to pick the winners when the race is over." Smith adds, "I'd like to see some intellectual honesty here, though that's something of an oxymoron when it comes to sports fans and the media" and then he reminds readers of the following facts concerning the Wallace signing:
1) Wallace was the reigning Defensive Player of the Year when the Bulls acquired him.
2) He had won that award four times in the previous five seasons and had just helped the Pistons make it to game seven of the NBA Finals.
3) Wallace was brought in to replace Tyson Chandler, who at the time was the object of much fan derision and whose tendency to get into foul trouble limited his effectiveness.
4) At that time, Coach Scott Skiles was a "folk hero" for actually demanding "accountability" from Chandler, who was unable to provide it at that time.
5) Chandler's improved production with the Hornets is due in no small part to playing with a great point guard (Chris Paul), something that is still noticeably absent from the Bulls' roster--meaning that the Chandler you see in New Orleans is not likely the one you'd have seen if he had remained a Bull.
6) If Chicago had not signed Wallace the other choices were Nazr Mohammed and Joel Przybilla.
7) At the time of the Wallace deal, few if any dissenting voices were heard (that is where the whole picking the winners after the race is over deal applies--what "everybody knows" now is not what "everybody" was saying back then).
It is also worth noting that with Wallace at center the Bulls swept the defending champion Heat and extended the favored Pistons to six games. Raise your hand if you thought that the Bulls would be this bad this season--and if your hand is in the air now, please stop lying. Although Smith primarily looks at the deal from a Chicago perspective, it is also worth considering what has happened to Detroit. The Pistons won the 2004 title and made it to the 2005 Finals with Wallace at center; since letting him go, the Pistons have yet to return to the championship round and have experimented with Mohammed, Chris Webber and Rasheed Wallace at center. It is reasonable to wonder if the Pistons left a championship or two on the table by letting Wallace go--and if you think that they did not miss him in the playoffs, then here is your assignment: pop in a tape of LeBron James dunking non-stop on Detroit as Cleveland beat the Pistons in four straight playoff games and then pop in a tape of James not being able to get to the hoop against the Spurs' backline defense anchored by Tim Duncan.
Smith concludes, "The plan with Wallace, really, was to get two good years out of him, have him tutor a young big man a third season and then move him to a team looking to get under the salary cap. It looks like the Bulls got one good season instead." It's easy for fans to play general manager after the fact and pretend that they know how to run a team but it is much more difficult to actually make these decisions in real time and under the restraints of the salary cap, which players are available and other factors that fans don't think about.
posted by David Friedman @ 4:05 PM