Ben Wallace's down-to-earth qualities shine through on big night
Auburn Hills — The gang came together again for one of their own, to honor their leader, Ben Wallace.
In their courtside seats, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, along with coach Larry Brown, had something of a reunion as Ben Wallace’s No. 3 jersey was retired at halftime of Saturday night’s game.
It was a feel-good moment on a bigger night, when the Pistons routed the Golden State Warriors, 113-95. While the Warriors had two of the most prolific scorers in the game today, the night belonged to Wallace and the 2004 championship squad — who were known for their defense.
“Most of the things I did on the floor weren’t pretty,” Wallace said in a pregame press conference. “You weren’t going to get a whole lot of excitement and oohs and aahs and people at the playground saying, ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — and grab a rebound, like Ben Wallace.’”
During the halftime ceremony, Wallace addressed the sellout crowd, as did current owner Tom Gores and Rasheed Wallace, and the heartfelt words were a fitting tribute to the face and spirit of those ‘Goin’ to Work’ Pistons teams of a decade ago.
Wallace — known for his trademark afro — had a short, neat haircut on Saturday night.
“I had a ‘fro up until two days ago,” Wallace said. “I decided to cut it. The ‘fro still grows big and fluffy — and very, very white.”
Wallace joked that he still could play “three minutes or so” per game but has focused his energy on other interests, including running a gym in Richmond, Virginia, where he runs camps for at-risk youth and an adult lead.
But he still finds the time to work out, as was his blue-collar work ethic during his heyday in Detroit. Wallace said he got a couple calls about getting into coaching but he’s not quite ready to make that step.
“I got quite a few calls, but for me, I’m still too close to the game,” he said. “I don’t want to get to the point where I’m out here trying to coach and teach a young guy something and keep putting myself in that position, ‘When I was playing, I used to do this and that.’
“That’s not going to help me and not going to help him. I’m not far enough away from the game where I can be a fair and honest coach.”
The crew will get back together next month, when Billups’ No. 1 jersey retirement will come.
“I can’t wait. I’m excited to be here,” Wallace said. “When it’s their time, I’m going to be just as happy.”
Throughout the game, Andre Drummond and the Warriors’ Draymond Green (Michigan State) had a lot of back-and-forth, with Green getting a technical foul. Green didn’t put up the stats on Saturday, with five points, five rebounds and nine assists.
But as he tried to get under Drummond’s skin, the Pistons big man didn’t back down and stood up to the challenge.
“We did not back down at all. They wanted to turn it into that, but no. We stood up to it,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Draymond was talking and wanted to talk and do some extra-curricular stuff after the play. It was good; Andre wasn’t having it.”
The Pistons had a couple of injuries to key bench players, but nothing seems to be a long-term issue. Center Aron Baynes looked to take a knee to his thigh and stayed down after the contact, but Van Gundy said Baynes should be fine.
Brandon Jennings left the game because of a jammed left foot and did not return in the second half, but Steve Blake took over the reserve point-guard duties, with a couple of 3-pointers.
Van Gundy said that Jennings likely would have an MRI on Sunday but that the injury didn’t appear to be anything that would keep Jennings out for an extended period.