As an undrafted journeyman center, Ben Wallace signed a five-year, $30 million deal with the Pistons back in 2000. Since then, he's earned All-Star berths and Defensive Player of the Year honors three times and has finished in the league's top three in rebounds every year. Needless to say, he's been one of the biggest bargains in all of sports.
It's time to pay the piper. He'll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and if he hits the open market, there should be no shortage of teams willing to give him a max contract. Should the Pistons be one of them? Everyone seems to have an opinion. Some argue that he's already 31 years old, and since he makes his living almost entirely off his athleticism, it would be a bit foolish to commit to such a huge contract since his best years might already be behind him.
I'm on the other side of the argument. I'm not sure anyone in the league takes better care of his body than Wallace, and I see no reason why he can't still be on top of his game in five or six years. He's more than just a top-notch defender, he's the heart and soul of this team. It's been said so many times about him that it's becoming cliche, but it's absolutely true.
The good news is that it looks like Wallace genuinely wants to stay with Detroit for the rest of his career. He finally spoke to the media about it on Wednesday:
"I came here and played the best basketball of my career here," he said before the season opener Wednesday night against the 76ers. "This team, this organization opened their arms up to me and let me come in at a time when probably only a couple of other teams would have. The Pistons stepped up to the plate.
"There is no question where my heart is at."
The man is entitled to whatever he can get, but I'll be very, very surprised if he ever hits the open market. I think Wallace, like Prince, simply likes the organization, and it wouldn't surprise me if he ended up taking a little less (either in average salary or number of years) to stay with Detroit than he could get if he were willing to play with a team like Chicago or Atlanta. Maybe that's just what I want to believe, but I don't think so.
Ben: My heart is here [Detroit News]