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Old 07-03-2006, 04:49 PM   #1
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Wonder if Big Ben will take the Bulls up on their offer. A big impact for Chicago but I think an even bigger fallout in Detroit...

The ball's in Wallace's court
Pistons' center must weigh offers from Bulls and Detroit

By Marlen Garcia
Tribune staff reporter
Published July 3, 2006

Ben Wallace has to decide whether he wants to stay comfortable in Detroit or try to make a splash with the up-and-coming Bulls.

The 6-foot-9-inch center reportedly has an offer from the Pistons that would pay him an estimated $48 million over four years. A source close to the Bulls confirmed they also had made a four-year offer.

Bulls general manager John Paxson and coach Scott Skiles met with Wallace on Saturday in Detroit.

The Bulls have about $15 million in salary-cap room for next season and likely offered Wallace slightly more than the Pistons, probably $13 million to $13.5 million, for the first year.

That offer probably isn't enough to sweep Wallace off his feet. So it's up to the veteran, entering his 11th season, to decide on a career path.

Wallace, in an interview with The Detroit News on Sunday, said he wasn't pleased with the Pistons' initial offer.

"It was disappointing," he said. "It was not at all what I expected."

Both offers could hold attractions.

Wallace won a championship ring with the Pistons in 2004 and has helped them reach the NBA Finals twice. The Pistons went on a roll during the 2005-06 regular season, going 64-18, but came undone in the playoffs and lost to Miami in the Eastern Conference finals.

Wallace criticized coach Flip Saunders during the playoffs, raising questions about whether Wallace would return. He also raised eyebrows during the regular season because he balked at re-entering a game in Orlando.

But a source close to the Pistons said Wallace's alleged falling out with Saunders had been overblown.

Reports out of Detroit indicate Wallace would consider leaving the Pistons, for whom he has played the last six seasons, only if a winning team beat the offer.

It is believed that a five-year offer could sway Wallace, but no team is likely to make such an offer because the NBA's "over-36" rule would require his fifth year to be prorated and counted against the team's salary cap in the previous four seasons. The rule takes effect when a player turns 36 in a deal of at least four years. Wallace will be 32 on Sept. 10.

The Bulls are the only team thought to be seriously pursuing Wallace. Philadelphia contacted his agent, Arn Tellem, but would need a sign-and-trade to make the deal. Tellem could not be reached for comment.

The Bulls went 41-41 last season but came on strong to close the regular season and gave the Heat a tough time in the first round of the playoffs.

For the last three seasons, the Bulls have been a work in progress. But they could improve significantly with Wallace on their side.

It would weaken the division rival Pistons and possibly disrupt Detroit's cohesion. In addition, the four-time NBA defensive player of the year would erase questions about the Bulls' staying power inside.

It's no stretch to say Wallace could make the Bulls contenders for the Eastern Conference title next season, assuming the young nucleus of Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Andres Nocioni and Chris Duhon lives up to its promise. That's also assuming Wallace's durable but aging body holds up as well as it has in Detroit.

The Bulls pride themselves on their defense. Last season they had the top defensive field-goal percentage in the league at .426.

Wallace is popular in Detroit for his work ethic, especially on defense. His characteristics would resonate with Chicagoans.

He would play a bigger role on offense with the Bulls, which is said to be important to him, though he isn't considered a strong offensive player.

Last season Wallace averaged 7.3 points to go with impressive averages of 11.3 rebounds, 1.78 steals and 2.21 blocks per game. He ranked in the top 10 in the league in the latter three categories.....

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