Those who expected the Pistons to show up for camp mourning the loss of Ben Wallace, to be paralyzed with fear at the thought of "going to work" without their former teammate -- those people should be sorely disappointed this season. The Pistons showed up for media day with the same swagger, the same style, and the same confidence that they've shown in past years. And even though the same hype hasn't followed them through the door, Blue's focus is on who is with them -- not those who aren't. Exhibit A (from today's Free Press):
As Rasheed Wallace gathered the assembled media around him, he said, "Let's get all the Ben questions out of the way now."
Antonio McDyess, who will inherit his share of responsibility in Ben's absense, had this to say to the Detroit News:
"We still feel like we're a good team," McDyess said. "When people doubt us, that's when we come out and show what we can do. With them saying we won't be as good without Ben, we have to go out there and prove them wrong."
Yes! It seems the chip has finally returned to the Pistons' shoulder, and not a moment too soon. I, for one, wouldn't mind seeing the Pistons get a little annoyed by the repeated Ben questions. The remaining four starters from last year's squad had as much or more to do with the team's success as Ben, and the notion that Wallace is irreplaceable is preposterous.
Ben Wallace's skill set included intensity and effort, skills that well-coached professionals should be able to supply when called upon. I don't mean to suggest that one player will be able to fill the gap by themselves, but a focused team of professionals playing 5-on-5 ball on both ends of the floor should be able to do some damage, right?
I'm tired of hearing that a dropoff is eminent this year. I'm tired of hearing about how the Pistons have slipped behind teams like the Bulls and Cavs in the East. Most of all, I'm tired of hearing of how Ben Wallace was the heart and soul of this team. Ben Wallace was a very good player who, last season, became simply "good." I know as much about what went on in that lockerroom as you do, but I can't imagine the declining performance and increased drama were worth the weight of $15 mil per year. Not for this team.
But let them doubt. Let them naysay. Something tells me Chauncey, Rip, Tay, and Sheed will have something to prove this year. And that should spell good things for the Boys in Blue.
More to come, but I needed to get that off of my chest.