Dear Detroit: We sincerely hope your reign as an Eastern Conference superpower was fun. Because now you officially have no dominant center.
Ben Wallace, the Pistons' four-time Defensive Player of the Year and this offseason's most coveted free agent, is reportedly signing with the Chicago Bulls, much to the delight of Bill Swerski's Super Fans.
ESPN's Chad Ford is telling all of us that the deal is worth $52 million over four years. That'll buy a lot of Polish sausage — specifically $2.4 million more links than he could have purchased had he accepted Detroit's offer.
It's odd that Ben Wallace didn't like the four year, $49 million deal but (reportedly) likes $52 million enough over that same timeframe to drive down I-94 and change jerseys.
But with this signing, the Bulls are in great shape. Their incumbent starting center, 7'1" Tyson Chandler can now settle in as the backup center while Wallace swats away shots in a division he's accustomed to dominating. Alongside Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich in the backcourt and
No. 2 No. 4 draft pick Tyrus Thomas at power forward, the young Bulls with Ben Wallace are a frightening team that could — gasp — compete this year. They took the recently-crowned champion Miami Heat to six games in the first round, so it's definitely plausible for Chicago to contend for the Eastern title.
Meanwhile, the Pistons are in trouble. All they had to do was retain the league's best defensive player and they didn't do it. The only center on their current depth chart is 37-year-old fossil Dale Davis. A forward-center combination of Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess is good but not great. They drafted 7'1" Senegalese center Cheik Samb in the second round, however, but his talent is about as raw as a frozen pie crust.
The two best centers still available in the free agent market are Joel Przybilla and Nazr Mohammed. They're 6th and 7th respectively on ESPN.com's Chad Ford's list of top free agents, but Wallace was No. 1 on that list. Even if they ink a deal with some other established center, it's just not the same.
This is indeed a sad day for Detroit sports fans. First Steve Yzerman retires from hockey, then this. At least they have the first-place Detroit Tigers.
Update: The deal is reportedly worth closer to $60 million, not $52 million. That makes a little more sense.
Update Numero Dos: The Pistons came to terms with former San Antonio Spurs center Nazr Mohammed on a 5-year, $30 million deal. He's by no means Ben Wallace, but he was part of the 2004-05 championship Spurs team and can defend modestly well.