A four-time defensive player of the year and perceived missing piece of the puzzle, Ben Wallace has raised expectations for the Chicago Bulls. Known as “The Body” for his impressive physique, Wallace also has brought some hair-raising expectations for the fans who wonder aloud if he’s “going to wear the ‘fro tonight?”
In this interview, he compares the Bulls to his former Pistons team, talks about what makes a great rebounder and responds to a theory that the Bulls don’t have the “real” Ben Wallace.
The Heckler: When you played with Detroit, how did the Pistons view the Bulls?
Ben Wallace: When I was with the Pistons, we really hated to play this team because they were a young, scrappy team. They sort of played the way we played when we won a championship and we really didn’t want to play them.
TH: How would you compare the players on this team to the players on the Pistons championship team you played on?
BW: Scrappy and getting it done on both ends of the floor. Not taking it for granted that we could score on one end, but allowing the other team to come down and catch it where they want on the other end. Play hard on both ends of the floor. When we won a championship, that’s what we did. We stopped guys from coming down and catching the ball in that sweet spot and forced guys to catch the ball farther out on the floor. And looking at this team last year and during the playoffs, that’s what they were doing.
TH: When it comes to rebounding, you don’t have a lot of big players on the team. Sometimes it seems when you play teams with a lot of big guys in their front court, it has been difficult for you. Do you find it to be a tougher situation because you don’t have as much size as some other teams?
BW: No, rebounding is not about size, rebounding is about energy. If we come out flat and don’t have the energy, that can make it tough for us. But anytime we come out with a lot of energy and we’re playing the way we want to play, rebounding is not a problem for us.
TH: So you would say rebounding is really more about wanting the ball than anything else?
BW: You know the ball goes up and you’ve got 10 guys on the court. Whoever wants it the most is going to come up with it. That’s what rebounding is about.
TH: You prove that yourself. You’re not as big as a lot of the guys out there, yet you’re one of the best rebounders in the league. But do you think overall, the lack of size has an effect on the team when you’re playing bigger guys, trying to stop them defensively inside?
BW: No, not at all. Like I said, if we come out and play the way we know we can play with a lot of energy, we seem to do well. When we come out a little bit flat and sort of go through the motions, that’s when we struggle.
TH: Do you feel pressure on you to take the team to the next level?
BW: I don’t think the pressure that anyone else puts on me could ever exceed the pressure that I put on myself. So if I’ve got all the pressure on me this year, there’s no reason for my teammates not to relax a little bit more.
TH: A Bulls beat writer questioned if the Bulls had the real Ben Wallace. What’s your response to that?
BW: I don’t really care what people write or say about me. I go out and play the way I play, and I’ll let the results speak for themselves.