The Ben Wallace era for the Chicago Bulls is just getting started and by the way they have played in the preseason, things are looking up for the team. Rebounding is up and the offensive game is becoming easier because of it, however, I still think Chicago has to tighten up if they are ever going to get pass the first round of the playoffs this year. It is simply too early to tell if the changes made will be enough, but overall there appears to be a lot of positives for the Bulls. The lack of height will continue to plague the team against some teams, but when you look at how well the Suns have done with a fast running game and great passing, it is easy to see that the Bulls can be at least a second round playoff team this year.
As another season of NBA Basketball is almost upon us, I took some time to read Harvey Araton’s Crashing the Borders: How Basketball Won the World and Lost Its Soul at Home. Araton, an experienced sports writer, manages to put together a convincing argument for the downfall of USA Basketball, but like most lovers of the game, Araton can’t help but end on an uplifting note. Whether the NBA will rise back to Jordan spectacle remains to be seen, however there is no denying that D. Wade and Lebron James are making the game fun to watch again.
A Black Man’s Game
Araton takes the issue of race head on and quickly points out that you can’t escape the racial implications in today’s NBA Game. It is not just about black male athletes making a lot of money, it is also about the game’s predominantly white audience. An audience that has ceased being blue collar and who identifies less and less with the inner city; an audience who doesn’t appreciate the athleticism of the game and who is there for the celebrity spectacle than anything else.
Drunk or not, too many basketball fans had reached the point where they objectified the players, could not relate to the them as human beings, or see beyond societal stereotypes and flimsily disguised racial codes. If the imagery of large black men beating on defenseless white fans was alarming, the too-widely accepted pastime of affluent whites feeling empowered to verbally abuse half-dressed, sweaty black men, should have evoked more discomfort and disturbing American historical chapters… The irony was that, the more the fans shelled out for their seats, the closer they got to the action—but the closer they got, the wider the gulf between them and players seemed to grow.
The Loss Of Fundamentals
Araton then goes on to gather several different opinions on the state of basketball, including coaches, teachers, and players. It becomes evident that the NBA suffers from multiple problems, many of them blatantly obvious, but some not so easily perceived. Like other fans of the game, Araton has his own opinions but he is more interested in what others think of the game, from international players who are trying to make it to the big stage, to college academics who disagree with the game’s commercialism, and to the players themselves who are beginning to feel pressured on more than just their playing abilities.
In the NBA there are players that dazzle the senses with their incredible offense and then there are players that work very hard and never forget that the game is still a team oriented game. In the 2006 playoffs, players like Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, and Ben Wallace brought their game. They did what they were suppose to do and gave it their best. For me personally the emotion when the Spurs lost to Dallas was real, even if I was rooting for Dallas, I still saw that Duncan gave it everything he had. Then there was the incredible one handed block that Ben Wallace had on Shaq in the Pistons-Heat series. What Duncan and Wallace showed in the playoffs is that they had heart and they tried their best, even when the rest of their teammates were not in synch. It was heart breaking to see the Pistons lose to Miami this year. Detroit was a better team than the Heat, but the Pistons somehow lost their interest in the game and their season boredom became their downfall in the playoffs. Ben Wallace was pretty vocal about some of the relaxed playing style, but alas the Pistons never regained their sharpness and lost to the incredible Dwayne Wade.
Now Ben Wallace has signed with the Chicago Bulls to make for one of the most interesting lineup changes in a long time. For Detroit, the Pistons starting five no longer will have the determination and spirit of Ben Wallace. By all considerations, the Pistons are now a lot more weaker team, not just in defense, but also in attitude. Chicago is a young team and they have something which the Pistons have not had for a year, namely attitude and heart. The Bulls with Wallace will come out tougher, more defense oriented, and a lot more resilient on both ends of the court. What this means is that the Bulls coaching staff will have less excuses this coming season not to excel in the playoffs. They just got the defensive player of the year, which means more offensive rebounds and more fast breaks. If Chicago can’t win with Wallace, then it certainly means there is something broken with the Bulls.
As for the Pistons, exactly what kind of a team will they be without Ben, remains to be seen. Detroit can certainly play both a half court game and a fast tempo game, but let’s be honest, without Ben, they will definitely have to play quicker defense, since they won’t be able to stop some offensive players in one on one situations. Then there is the question of who exactly is the leader of this team now? Rasheed seems to have rejected the role in the past, Rip and Prince are the energy players, and Chauncey is the guard, so essentially it is his team to lead. Whatever Detroit does, they will need to make their new persona known, as the breakup of the starting five only sheds doubt on what exactly is Piston basketball now.
I’m sure the Chicago fans are smiling right now, thinking their Bulls are finally back! There’s a new man in town and he aint no rookie. He’s Ben Wallace: Defensive Player of the Year.