Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Ben Wallace

I have been a bit frustrated from all the media exposing this minor issue surrounding the Bulls recently. Sure, Ben was having problems as the team struggled. This is understandable as he has never been a part of the centerpiece of an organization. With the Pistons, the blame fell on Rip for missing shots, Chauncey for turning the ball over, Larry Brown, Flip, or even Turtle in the stands for throwing a cup on the Palace floor. The fact is a game was never put on his shoulders. Now he has the big contract and the expectations to be a leader for this team.

Somebody should have first told him of the headband rule before he signed. Even now, they should reverse it. This is something that actually helps his game mentally and physically keeps sweat out of his eyes. This city is used to reckless rebounding forwards/centers. This does not even touch the surface of Rodman. His end certainly justified the means, didn't they? Why not give Ben a little breathing room?

They should have also told him (and the media) to expect a slow start this season. The team compiles 8 new players on a team that has started slow since the Dynasty era. Couple that with a Western road trip. Let me pause here, as maybe I am one of the 5% of people who have actually followed the Bulls since the era. The Bulls have gone 4-41 on the Western trip in the last seven seasons. Does anyone remember that they were once on a 37 game losing streak for the annual trip? Also, they were playing quality West teams in the Spurs, Dallas, Houston, Lakers, and Nuggets. This was one of the toughest road trips any team will face this season.

Certainly, the play did have cause for concern. The usually reliable contributors were playing sloppy, missing plays, and horrid defense. Now, they have returned home and currently ride a 5 game winning streak. The team is starting to gel on both sides of the ball. This team is coming together much faster than in the past. I know Ben's numbers have not been great. For instance, look at his stat line from the Celtics game last night. He had seven points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1 steal in 18 minutes. Not very impressive for a $60 million man. However, the best part of Big Ben's (and by the way, he is the real Big Ben, not this sophomore slump from the MAC in Pittsburgh) game is what does not show up in the lines. His energy, hustle for loose balls, tips that lead to another rebound or steal for a teammate, defensive intimidation, boxing out, picks, and other unheralded efforts are what makes this veteran so valuable.

Also, say what you want about his value in the locker room. It has been questioned lately, but there are a lot of smiles that come with this winning streak. The team is playing as a whole much better this early in the year as I can remember since the Dynasty. Could Wallace be a major contributor to that unity? I think so and am excited for the rest of this season.

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