Now with the Chicago Bulls, Wallace faces his former team for the first time when the Pistons visit the United Center on Saturday.
Wallace spent six seasons in Detroit, winning four consecutive conference titles and an NBA championship in 2004. Continued problems between him and Pistons coach Flip Saunders festered however, and when his contract came up at the end of last season, he left via free agency for more money with Chicago (19-14). After signing with the Bulls, the 32-year-old center said he knew his move within the division was going to heighten the rivalry between the teams.
“It’s definitely taking the rivalry to another level. Chicago and Detroit have always been great rivals,” Wallace said after signing a four-year, $60 million contract in July. “I think everybody should get some popcorn and sit there and watch it.”
The Pistons are averaging more rebounds per game without Wallace (42.4) than they did when he was in Detroit (40.5). His replacement—Nazr Mohammed—is averaging 7.6 points and 5.8 rebounds.
Wallace averaged 12.8 rebounds, 7.9 points and 2.8 blocked shots during his career with the Pistons, and said he hopes he can finally end talk about his poor relationship with his former team.
“It’s going to be emotional to go back out there and play against these guys that I went to war with for so many years,” Wallace said. “But I think it’s going to be good. When I left, there was a lot of stuff said about me abandoning the team, me and some players didn’t get along.
“It’ll just be good to show everybody that we’re going to play hard against each other, but at the end of the day, we’ve still got much love for each other.”
Wallace, who is averaging 6.8 points and 10 rebounds this season, had seven and 11, respectively, in Chicago’s 91-86 loss to the New Jersey Nets on Friday. With the Bulls trailing by three with 11 seconds left, Wallace appeared to pull them within a point, but he was called for offensive interference and the basket was waved off.
“I thought it was a botched-up dunk that was good,” Wallace said. “We have to do a better job of finishing games. We started strong, but we forgot we had to play another three quarters.”
The Bulls are 5-11 on the road this season, but play five of their next six at the United Center where the team is 14-3 - one of the best home records in the NBA. They have lost 15 of the last 16 games at home against the Pistons, who are coming off a 92-68 win over the New Orleans Hornets on Thursday.
Richard Hamilton scored 15 of his 27 points during the first quarter helping Detroit jump out to a 31-19 lead after the first quarter and build a 26-point lead at the half. New Orleans never really threatened after that.
“I think that our game plan coming into the game was to try to hit first more than anything. Be the aggressor. Don’t be backpedaling,” said Hamilton, whose team had lost three straight entering the game. “A lot of times when we play teams like this, we kind of ease our way into the game. I wanted to make a statement from the beginning, to tell the guys on the team: ‘Yo! I’m coming at these dudes. You better come on with me.’”
Detroit has won five straight and 28 of the last 32 games against the Bulls.