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Published: 7/3/2006

Dumars can't allow Wallace to leave Detroit

Six years later, history repeats itself for Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons.

Now, as in 2000, when owner Bill Davidson placed Dumars in charge of all personnel decisions, Dumars' biggest offseason move involves retaining Detroit's star player who also happens to be a free agent.

Ironically, Ben Wallace has been prominently involved on both occasions.

When the Pistons lost Grant Hill to free agency, Wallace was one of the players Dumars received in a sign-and-trade with Orlando that will go down as Dumars' most impressive transaction.

Wallace has become the face of the franchise. Dumars can't afford to lose him. No sign-and-trade can compensate for Wallace's loss.

Joey-on-the-spot, Dumars has already offered Wallace, considered the top free agent on the market, a four-year, $48-million contract that would make him the highest-paid player (per year) in Pistons' history.

Wallace can't sign the new contract until July 12, but that's assuming he re-signs.

Saturday, on the first day of NBA free agency, Wallace met with the Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls are among only a handful of teams with enough salary-cap room to pay Wallace more than the Pistons.

Philadelphia is another one of those teams. Sixers general manager Billy King has already made contact with Wallace's representatives.

Funny, but teams don't seem overly concerned that Wallace, a four-time defensive player of the year, is a terrible free-throw shooter.

Of course, if Dumars wants to take the mystery out of the Wallace sweepstakes, he can simply make Wallace a better offer.

However, it's unlikely that Dumars will top his initial offer. Usually, a team's first offer is the best one.

Wallace is eligible for a maximum contract beginning at $14 million or $15 million per season, but the Pistons have never awarded a player a max contract, and it doesn't appear they're willing to start now.

All things being equal, Wallace would prefer to remain with the Pistons. But business is business.

Some big-name players from the 2003 draft (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony) indicated they will accept maximum contract offers from their respective teams. Peja Stojakovic agreed to a five-year, $64-million deal with New Orleans.

If Stojakovic, who's strictly a jump shooter, is worth $12.8-million per season, where does that leave defensive stalwart Wallace and his championship ring?

Wallace is about to find out. That's why he hired high-powered agent Arn Tellem, a tough negotiatior.

Wallace, who has an excellent working relationship with Dumars, may not have trusted himself in contract talks with Detroit. Wallace had to remove his personal feelings from the negotiations.

Wallace made it to the NBA the hard way. When he left Division II Virginia Union in 1996, not a single NBA general manager said he couldn't believe Wallace was there when his team picked in the draft. That's because Wallace wasn't drafted.

A self-made All-Star, Wallace learned to go without, or settle for less, early in his pro career.

It's payback time. Time for some team to pay up.

Dumars counted on his friendship with Hill keeping Hill in Detroit. That strategy backfired.

Six years later, history is repeating itself all over again.



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