Ben waited for Charlie Ward at the loading dock after a game last season and had to be restrained by his teammates.
I am shocked, I thought Artest was the only guy that ever went off the deep end.
Mentor Woodson knows
Big Ben went too far
After he took the Detroit Pistons head coaching job last season, Larry Brown knew he had to make one immediate change. Nobody guarded Ben Wallace. Not even his own shadow. So Brown assigned one of his assistants, Mike Woodson, the job of getting Wallace to do more than grab rebounds and block shots.
Every day after practice, Woodson, a former Knicks No.1 pick with a sweet jump shot, worked with Wallace on his jumper.
Woodson didn't turn Wallace into the second coming of Kevin Garnett. But he did help develop Detroit's center into enough of a scoring threat that the Pistons didn't feel they were playing four-on-five when they had the ball. Through the playoffs, opponents had to get out on Wallace when he shot his 15-foot jumper. Looking back on Detroit's surprising run to the title, it was one of the more surprising stories.
But now when Woodson, head coach of the Hawks, talks about Wallace, it's not about developing his shot or winning more rebounding crowns or anything related to basketball.
It's all about the riot.
Wallace played a big part in the worst night in NBA history. He retaliated against Ron Artest's late foul, a borderline cheap shot that is part of Artest's repertoire. It's debatable whether Wallace instigated the entire mess. But he fired the first big shot, shoving Artest. He later threw a towel at him. Then all hell broke loose at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
As much as Artest is vilified because of his volatile history, Wallace is no choir boy. A year ago this past Sunday, he went to the Palace's back loading dock after a game against the Knicks and sought out Charlie Ward. Wallace believed that Ward took a cheap shot at his knees and had to be restrained by several players, until Ward came off the bus, walked up to Wallace and said, "What's your problem?" Wallace didn't mess with Charlie.
Of course, that incident isn't even in the same league with the one last Friday night.
"I think everybody involved was totally wrong," Woodson said. "Ben lost his cool a little bit. Maybe Artest's foul was a bit much and maybe Ben retaliated and maybe it should have gone no further than that."
But it went farther than anyone could have imagined. Compared to Artest and the Pacers, Wallace got off easy, drawing only a six-game suspension from David Stern. It's still the talk of the league, overshadowing everything, including the Knicks' 104-88 trouncing of the undersized Hawks in the Garden last night.
"It was one of the ugliest things I've seen in my time of playing basketball," said Woodson, a star at Indiana before he came to New York in 1980. "It got so far out of hand. Anything is liable to happen in the heat of the battle. But that still doesn't make it right that guys fight. I don't condone what the fans did. You don't allow 'em to spit on players or come out on the floor at a player. But we're all just as responsible for what happened. It shouldn't be that way because at the end of the day, all it is is a basketball game."
But in the wake of the riot, they're being very quick to quell any potential trouble. Last night, when Jerome Williams and Antoine Walker briefly tangled, referee Tom Nunez jumped right in and called Walker for a technical foul. A week ago, Walker wouldn't have been so much as warned.
Nothing is viewed as minor anymore. One league source said that various rules dealing with how players comport themselves are being considered, including one that prohibits players from lying down on the scorers table. Call it the "Artest Rule."
"You can blame the fans," Kenny Anderson said. "But to me, you can't go up in the stands."
Finally, someone who plays said the right thing. What a surprise that it was Anderson, who is starting for the Hawks. Remember during the last lockout? He caught all kinds of grief for saying that things were getting bad enough that he was considering selling off one of his eight luxury cars. Six years later, while many players are quick to defend the inexcusable actions of Artest and Stephen Jackson, he's making sense.
'I don't think fans should throw stuff at players; that's wrong, too," Anderson said as he prepared for another basketball game in a different NBA world. "They shouldn't be able to go crazy. But we can't go up in the stands. We've got to be professional."