Rasheed feels at home
Rasheed Wallace says he's pleased to sign on for five more years.
By Larry Lage
AUBURN HILLS -- Rasheed Wallace seemed very comfortable in his new home.
When Wallace met with reporters Friday morning after signing a $57 million, five-year contract to stay with the Detroit Pistons, he strolled into the news conference looking like he was walking into his living room.
Wallace sported flip flops, white socks, blue athletic shorts, a matching top, and an NBA championship hat he helped Detroit win.
''It's definitely great to be back,'' he said. ''The next five years, we definitely got to do it a couple more times.''
The Pistons acquired Wallace, with an expiring contract, from Atlanta in a three-team deal just before the trading deadline on Feb. 19 for reserves and two No. 1 picks.
Detroit was 12 games over .500 before adding the 6-foot-11 forward, but the man running the team wasn't satisfied.
''We went on a 13-game winning streak, but I knew in my heart of hearts that we weren't good enough to win it all,'' Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars said. ''I knew it would take an impact player, a big-time talent, who was unselfish and a great teammate, to put us over the top.
''There's no question in my mind that Rasheed Wallace was that guy.''
With Wallace, Detroit was 20-6 in the regular season and 16-7 in the playoffs, including a five-game series in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.
He averaged 16 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 blocks in the regular season, his ninth in the NBA. His statistics were similar in the postseason.
''You have to get beyond just the numbers,'' Dumars said. ''There was a lot more that he brought to the team than just how many points per game he averaged. That doesn't tell the whole story.''
Wallace gave Detroit an emotionally fiery player it didn't have; an occasional low-post presence it lacked; and another defender near the basket it needed next to Ben Wallace.
Even though the Pistons wanted him back -- and were willing to pay the unrestricted free agent twice as much as any other suitor -- negotiations slowed down when players without Rasheed Wallace's credentials signed lucrative contracts.
''It made my job harder,'' Dumars said. ''Every day one would come out, and I would say, 'You've got to be kidding me.'''
NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups said it was ''huge'' to have Wallace back.
''It solidifies everything we wanted to do in the next few years,'' Billups said. ''By getting this done and signing Antonio McDyess, it shows that we're serious about repeating.''
Detroit signed McDyess to a $23 million, four-year deal to replace reserve Mehmet Okur, who signed a $50 million, six-year offer sheet from Utah.
The NBA champions also have signed 2003 first-round pick Carlos Delfino, who played in Europe last season, and free agent forward Ronald Dupree. Dumars hopes to re-sign reserves Lindsey Hunter and Darvin Ham, and to add another reserve point guard.
The Pistons appear to be the perfect fit for Wallace because they don't want or need him to be a star, like his previous teams did.
The former North Carolina standout was drafted by Washington with the fourth overall pick in 1995, but only stayed there one season before being traded to Portland.
Following seven-plus seasons with the Trail Blazers, where his temper made him infamous, they dealt him to Atlanta. After one game with the Hawks, he was sent to Detroit.
Wallace was called for just two technicals in the postseason, a total that might have shocked some who followed his career in Portland.
He broke his own NBA record with 41 technical fouls during the 2000-01 season, and once was suspended for seven games for threatening an official after a game.
''You see this happen in sports periodically, where a player is in a situation with a team and then there's a change of scenery and a completely different chapter is written,'' Dumars said. ''People are going to remember two things about his career: his early days in Portland, and all the controversy surrounding him. And his days here where he starts off winning a championship, and he's on a contender hopefully for the rest of his career.
''We absolutely have every intention of having him finish his career here. Trust me, it's hard to find guys that are talented like him, that can help you win championships.''