It’s funny how many people haven’t realized the NBA doesn’t give out “Comeback Player of the Year” anymore. Back in the mid-’80s — not coincidentally, during the Crack Boom — David Stern realized the CPOY award was starting to become the “Who recovered from a drug problem?” trophy, so he phased it out and turned it into the Most Improved Player award. There hasn’t been a CPOY since 1986, and yet even today, you’ll get people arguing for guys like Grant Hill and Shaun Livingston to win an award that doesn’t exist.
If there was a Comeback Player of the Year, though, in 2010 it would have belonged to Ben Wallace. After he appeared to be washed-up over the last couple years with the Bulls and Cavs, Big Ben returned to Detroit this season and proved he can still play. Though injuries limited him to 69 games, Wallace averaged 5.5 points, 8.7 rebounds (leading the team) and 1.2 blocks as the Pistons’ full-time starting center.
But now that his one-year contract is up, Wallace has to decide if he wants to retire at 35, re-sign with the Pistons and basically concede to never winning another championship, or try to get on with a contender. From the Detroit News:
Wallace, who is working out almost daily at home in Virginia, said he must listen to his body.
“When I am healthy, I can play this game at a high level night in and night out,” he said. “But sometimes, those knick-knack injuries take so much out of you mentally. Physically, I can handle anything but mentally when you have those injuries, it takes away from your game.”
Pistons general manager Joe Dumars said via text message the team isn’t putting any pressure on Wallace.
“We would like to have him back,” Dumars wrote. “And he’ll let me know when he’s ready to make a decision.”
If Wallace wants to go for a ring before wrapping up his career, I would imagine teams like the Spurs, Celtics, Magic, Jazz, Nuggets and Heat would at least give him some consideration. In Denver he could reunite with Chauncey Billups, and if Miami re-signs Dwyane Wade to go with another superstar free agent to become an instant contender, they could also use Wallace’s defense and rebounding.
If Wallace is done, though, how would you evaluate his career? Is Ben Wallace a Hall of Famer? Three years ago, when I was doing the “Hall of Fame Watch” series, I predicted Big Ben would eventually get into the Naismith Basketball H.O.F. following his retirement.
His career averages have dipped a little since then — currently sitting at 6.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.3 steals — but he’s still got four NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards, five All-NBA and six All-Defensive selections, four All-Star nods, two rebounding titles, one blocked-shots title, and one NBA championship. Wallace in his prime was the League’s premier defender, and reminded everyone that you can dominate a game without scoring.
Do you think Ben Wallace is a Hall of Famer?