When Chicago signed Ben Wallace to a four-year, $60-million contract, quite a few people were skeptical. When Wallace had a rift with head coach Scott Skiles over a headband, people became more and more worried. When Wallace was producing below his average of the year before, people starting screaming about what a mistake the Bulls had made in signing him.
Slowly and quietly, those screams have died down to whispers. Soon they will be gone, because the Bulls are at least going to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, and probably will go to the NBA Finals. And the reason for that is Ben Wallace. OK, one of the reasons for that is Ben Wallace. The young players on the Bulls (discounting the rookies) are generally playing well: Hinrich, Duhon, Nocioni, and especially Luol Deng.
As much as I believe in statistics, however, I still believe veteran experience counts for something we can't quite quantify. For instance, I believe Derek Fisher is helping the Jazz be a better team this year. That belief is not supported by his stats, but I believe his presence is helping Deron Williams progress faster than he would have otherwise, and we can see this impact in DWill's performance. As for Ben Wallace, he is having a large effect on the Bulls in both stats and experience, and I think both of these will help the Bulls in their playoff run.
The reason I bring this up is because of the Cavaliers - Bulls game last night. The Bulls won the game, helped immensely by a tremendous performance from Wallace. His line:
44 min, 6-8 FG, 2-2 FT, 19 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl, 7 blk, 1 turnover, 1 foul, 14 points
All in all he had a win score of 30.5, which would put this game in 4th place this year on raw win score. A fantastic game, one of the best of the year. And what is ESPN.com's headline? "LeBron's 29 not enough". They must have some kind of contract provision where they must mention LeBron James for every game he plays. That's the only explanation.
However, the lead does explain why the Bulls will go far into the playoffs, and the Cavaliers will not. Once again this year, LeBron is carrying this team. And you can't pull a team all the way to the Finals by yourself. James' "help" in this game consisted of Larry Hughes putting up a 9 for 26 shooting night (Win Score: 1.5) and a supporting cast in which no other player took more than 8 shots. That's not gonna win you a lot of games.
Now, Ben Wallace is obviously not going to perform this way every game. And LeBron's supporting cast will step up now and again. But I have a feeling in April and May we'll be seeing more games looking like this one than not. Wallace's playoff experience, along with his top-notch play, will push the Bulls to great things. Maybe the Cavaliers should have found a way to sign Wallace last summer. Things would have looked very different in the East.
(Points + Rebounds + Steals + ½Assists + ½Blocked Shots – Field Goal Attempts – Turnovers - ½Free Throw Attempts - ½Personal Fouls) / Minutes = Win Score per Minute
- ▼ 2007 (33)