While Detroit Pistons fans around the world lost their collective minds at the realization that the Pistons had finally, after a 51-year drought, secured the first overall pick in the NBA Draft, Ben Wallace was made for the moment — calm, collected, a wry smile on his face.
When Wallace saw the Houston Rockets’ logo come out of the envelope at pick No. 2, he simply rubbed his hands together, gave a couple silent pounds at his desk and delivered a few golf claps.
He then help up one finger and gave you a classic Ben Wallace scowl. The kind he delivered to anyone he dared come into his territory. Like the restricted area 20 years ago, this was a No Fly Zone for non-Pistons.
It turns out, the Detroit Pistons had the perfect representative at the NBA Draft Lottery. Before the envelopes were unsealed Wallace said he never thought about bringing a good-luck charm, a common practice for the superstitious reps who attend the lottery.
“I figure after all the work I put in, nothing but good things can happen,” he said.
For his part, GM Troy Weaver said Wallace was the first and only name that came to mind when others within the team asked him who should represent the team at the NBA Draft Lottery.
It might seem a little odds. The Draft Lottery was the closest Wallace ever came to the NBA Draft in his life. The unheralded player out of Division II Virginia Union went undrafted in the 1996 NBA Draft.
He then went on to play for 16 seasons, four All-Star appearances, four Defensive Player of the Year awards and one NBA championship.
It turns out, actually, being undrafted is what made him the perfect person to be at the lottery. Wallace is proof anybody can make it in the league if they have the talent and put in the work whether others see it initially or not.
“He epitomizes everything that we want to represent in this organization. He’s a symbol for our players to look to. He represents the city in a first-class manner,” Weaver said after the Draft lottery.
“These players have a living symbol of what it takes to be a Piston, and Ben is a team-first guy. He brings his hard hat everyday. This guy was undrafted and now he’s going to the Hall of Fame. He is everything we want to be about. Couldn’t pick a better person to represent us than Ben Wallace.”
Now Weaver needs to ace the first overall selection and his work might be made pretty easy as Cade Cunningham has established himself as a near consensus at No. 1. His size at 6-foot-8, passing ability, defensive toughness and shot-making means he can be a primary option, get teammates involved and contribute on both ends of the floor in crunch time.
You want your best player to be able to perform when it’s a close game and baskets are hard to come by in the playoffs. Guys who you can feel confident in to handle the ball in a playoff game’s final minutes. By all accounts, that’s Cunningham.
That’s not to say Weaver is tipping his hand. He said he has four or five guys they will look at seriously, but admitted that for now Cade is “at the top of the list.”
Weaver and Wallace share that cool demeanor in common. Troy looked as relaxed as if you catch him after a Wednesday night game after the All-Star break.
“I was ready for six. I was ready for five. I was ready for four. I was ready for three. I was ready for two. One happened. I feel the same way. My faith doesn’t waver. My belief in restoring the Pistons doesn’t waver,” he said.
The NBA Draft is July 29.