A break from our second-round discussion for a moment:
Remember back in January when Ben Wallace fired his agent? Remember all that "he doesn't need an agent; he's a straight shooter [no pun intended]" talk? Well forget it. Ben has hired NBA power agent Arn Tellem to rep him come free agency-time this summer.
What could this possibly mean? A. Sherrod Blakely of MLive has the story (good to see that one of the Pistons beat-writers is still working the non-Lebron beat):
The decision to hire Tellem will surely raise some eyebrows about the possibility that Wallace, who is expected to re-sign with Detroit, might be willing to entertain offers from other teams when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
For Ben's part, he is saying the right things for a man knee deep in a championship run:
"It hasn't changed me," Wallace said. "Or how I approach going into this summer with the free agency or anything like that."
Of course, saying otherwise would present a huge distraction for a team expected to go deep in the playoffs this year. But given that, as Blakely suggests in his article, Ben will be looking for the biggest contract of his career (in the vicinity of $12 million to start, and increasing every year afterwards), Ben may have realized that in order to max his earnings, he'll need to at least entertain competing offers from around the league. And there will be plenty of interest; he is the reigning defensive player of the year and the premier free agent in this year's class. Needless to say, the Chicago Bulls will have Tellem on speed dial.
In recent years, Joe Dumars has been very smart in doling out long-term deals to Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton. Both players were on the ascent at the time of signing, and while their deals guaranteed large initial paydays, they became/will become bargains as they develop into stars.
Now we have the inverse situation. Ben is a star, and is looking for a long-term "star" contract. But Ben's skills will diminish as he plays into his mid-30s. It will be interesting to see if Joe D rewards Ben with max money for being the face of the franchise and a largely important piece in it's return to glory. Or Joe could attempt to pay actual value for a 31 year old center that, at the top of his game, only dominates half of the court. And keep in mind that Chauncey Billups is a free agent in '07 and will be expecting a similar max deal. It's times like these when it pays to have the best executive in the league calling the shots.