Rasheed Wallace … starting center?

You know how we've more or less accepted Nazr Mohammed's return as the de facto starting center? That may not happen. According to Chris McCosky, Flip Saunders is actually learning toward using Rasheed Wallace in the middle, with Antonio McDyess starting along side him. From McCosky's blog:

Nothing is etched in stone, of course. But, after talking to Flip Saunders, the plan going into training camp is to have Antonio McDyess playing power forward alongside Rasheed Wallace on the first unit. McDyess, who turned 33 last Friday, has already been told to prepare for that possibility. He has come back to Detroit a month early to get a head start on his conditioning, something he hasn't done since his knee surgeries.

The move makes sense on several levels. Wallace needs a high-energy player alongside of him, particularly early in games. We saw that last year, as the team consistently sputtered out of the gate with Nazr Mohammed and Chris Webber.

Honestly, that's my ideal starting lineup, I just figured it'd never happen given Wallace's reluctance to play center and McDyess' preference for coming off the bench. Plus, the news that McDyess has a head start on his conditioning should help him avoid opening the year ice cold until he plays himself into shape as he's done in the past.

As McCosky notes later in his post, Wallace has been working out at the team's facility all summer and has lost 25 pounds since the end of last season. That's impressive and should certainly help his mobility, though here's to hoping it doesn't affect his ability to bang with the bigs down low.

The most obvious benefit, though, is that this should open up that much more playing time for Amir Johnson and Jason Maxiell:

Also by starting McDyess, it allows Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson, the young guys, to provide the energy off the bench -- which makes sense. To accomodate (sic) Johnson's talents, the Pistons might have to turn that second unit loose. Because Johnson struggles in structured sets, Saunders may have to let loose the reins and allow Johnson, Maxiell, Rodney Stuckey and Jarvis Hayes to run and gun a bit. That will be fun to watch.

I haven't seen Johnson enough to know how much he "struggles in structured sets," but I do know that he runs the floor extremely well for a big man, so playing to his strengths with a little run-and-gun would probably be the best thing for the second unit no matter what. Earlier this week, McCosky theorized that Maxiell might actually be a starter, but it seems that's been superseded by Saunders' latest comments.

On a side note, big thanks to the up-and-coming PistonsBlog for pointing out McCosky's post. Turns out he's actually been writing all week, and I have a feeling I'm not the only one who missed it due to his blog's lack of RSS. (You're almost there, Detroit News! Adding links to individual posts was a huge step, don't give up now!)

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