You'll have to excuse us if we took the better part of two days to post anything after the Boys in Blue dropped Game 6. After tracking this team's every movement during the regular season and stepping it up a notch for the playoffs, Friday night was an unexpected and premature beginning to the rest of the summer.
To echo what Matt said previously, we will be here throughout the summer commenting on this past season, postulating on '07, and evaluating the roster moves that are surely on the horizon. One things should be certain: we are most definitely not disenchanted with current cast of Pistons. A few tweaks to the roster, a refreshing of their fighting spirit, and the team should be back in the thick of things next season. But, with their earliest exit from the playoffs in the last three seasons, needless to say this is going to be an interesting summer in Auburn Hills.
In the first of what will definitely be multiple discussions on Ben Wallace's free agency, Chris McCoskey makes some interesting observations about Big Ben in today's Detroit News:
Ben Wallace has had issues with every coach since he’s been a Piston. At some point, it’s not the coach. Wallace’s petulance was more visible this year than ever this season, which was disappointing.
More bothersome, though, is the plain fact that for the first time Wallace’s game started to show signs of decline. That’s serious anguish for any player. Many refuse to acknowledge it. Wallace’s anguish was compounded by the fact that the NBA game, and the Pistons way of playing it, is changing. Recent rules adjustments have legislated against the aggressive defense that has made Wallace the preeminent defender of the last five seasons.
The phrase "Ben being Ben" used to mean he got 15 rebounds and 5 blocks and controlled the game at the defensive end. This year, Ben being Ben meant he was in some sort of snit.
Even more interesting than McCoskey's comments, are the context in which he delivers them. He spends 90% of the article explaining away the Pistons' problems: there was no dissention in the ranks; Sheed is still a great teammate; Flip Saunders did practice defense even more than Larry Brown; etc. But only when discussing the topic of Ben does McCoskey waver from his "glass is half full" mentality. That McCoskey's rosey outlook doesn't extend to Big Ben speaks volumes to what Piston fans have increasingly been saying this season: Ben is no longer impervious to criticism and may now be more a symptom of the problem than a piece of the future solution.
What McCoskey says about the slippage of Ben's game is true: his 7 point, 7 board performance in Game 6 was evidence of this fact. Sure, he can occasionally take over games on the defensive end -- as he did in Game 5 against the Heat -- but teams have found ways to limit his effectiveness, taking advantage of lack of size and forcing Ben to play man defense. To limit Ben's impact as a help defender is to limit Ben's effectiveness as a defender. His volleyball spike blocked shots and monstrous rebounds allowed his teammates to play a fast and loose style of D, pressuring the ballhandler and gambling in the passing lanes. With Big Ben down low, they always had their safety net in place. But by throwing a 4 or a 5 at Ben on every play, backing him down on offense and blocking him out on the boards, Ben became what he always was -- an incredible energy guy who was just a little undersized.
Anyways, as stated, this is just the beginning for this topic, but we might as well get the discussion going while the '05 stink is still fresh in everyone's nostrils. Does Ben stay or go, and at what expense?
Things aren't as bad as they seem [Detroit News]