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Published: Friday, 7/7/2006

Without Ben, Pistons need a superstar

Don't stop now, Joe Dumars.

Your task is far from done.

Finish the job and blow up the Detroit Pistons.

As Ben "Benedict'' Wallace prepares to sign with the rival Chicago Bulls, Dumars, Detroit's president of basketball operations, should go for broke.

Develop a concrete plan and stop pretending there's still a legitimate chance to win an NBA championship in Detroit with the present collection of players.

Wallace is gone. Gone for good is Detroit's all-for-one, one-for-all team concept.

Without Wallace, the Pistons are a team of good-to-average individuals. Not a superstar in the house.

Wallace is no superstar. But he held the Pistons together. His intangibles were invaluable to the Pistons winning one championship and finishing within one victory of back-to-back-titles.

Wallace made Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton better defenders - not the other way around.

A center by nature, it wasn't uncommon to witness Wallace at 6-foot-9, 240 pounds go out on the perimeter and defend Cleveland's LeBron James without embarrassing himself. His ability to grab offensive rebounds and corral loose balls provided the Pistons with untold scoring opportunities.

Wallace stood out because of his ability to make his teammates better in a league that's become superstar driven.

The Pistons were the exception to that rule. They somehow won a title in 2004 playing team ball.

So where does that leave the Pistons? Behind the eight-ball and in need of a superstar.

Philadelphia's Allen Iverson is available. A.I. can put the ball in the hole. Dumars nearly landed Iverson in a trade a few years ago.

Billups will be a free agent after next season. If Dumars has any doubts about his ability to re-sign Billups, the last thing he wants is to lose him the way he did Wallace - without receiving compensation. Billups could be trade bait for Iverson, who would be a perfect fit in coach Flip Saunders' up-tempo offense. Impossible? Crazier things have happened.

Like the Pistons failing to re-sign Wallace in a classic example of dumping a good player for an average one. Wallace's replacement, free-agent center Nazr Mohammed, is a career backup who isn't close to being an impact player and isn't guaranteed to start next season.

As for Mohammed being a better offensive player than Wallace, it's a case of splitting hairs. Mohammed has a career scoring average of 7.1 points on 47.8 percent shooting in 18.8 minutes, compared with Wallace's 6.6 career scoring average on 48.2 percent shooting in 31.1 minutes. Mohammed is a much better free throw shooter than Wallace, who shoots a career 41.8 percent from the line.

Offense isn't Wallace's

specialty, but the Pistons aren't better off without him. The bottom line is, everybody shoots better free throws than Wallace.

If Detroit runs enough plays so that Mohammed shoots 10-12 free throws a game, then it's a good move. But it's really a non-issue. You're talking about a guy (Mohammed) averaging 2.1 free throw attempts for his career who will make 2 out of 3, instead of a guy (Wallace) averaging 2.7 attempts who will make 1 out of 3 free throws.

The real challenge facing the Pistons will be proving they are still title contenders without Ben Wallace.



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