Ben Wallace had a friendly reunion with his former team last month, but he isn’t so sure the welcome will be as warm at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Sunday.
Wallace returns to Detroit for the first time since leaving the team in the offseason when his Chicago Bulls take on the Pistons.
“The Palace will be rocking,” Wallace said on Wednesday. “They know I’m coming.”
Wallace spent six years in Detroit, where he helped the team win a championship in 2003-04 and was a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. However, his age, money demands and declining relationship with coach Flip Saunders factored into his departure in July, when the Bulls signed him to a four-year contract worth $60 million.
Wallace said he isn’t sure what to expect from the fans in Detroit (35-19) on Sunday.
“Those are Piston fans and I’m a Bull,” he said Friday after his team beat the Washington Wizards 105-90. “If they cheer it will be great. If they boo it will be great. As long as I get some type of reaction.”
It might not be the most positive reaction, considering a story on the Pistons’ official Web site regarding Wallace’s return included many Detroit fans expressing bitter feelings toward their former All-Star.
In Wallace’s first game against his former team, the Bulls (32-25) won 106-89 on Jan. 6, though the Pistons were missing star guard Chauncey Billups. Wallace had 12 points, 14 rebounds, six blocked shots and three steals in the game at Chicago, where the reunion with his former teammates and Saunders was uneventful.
“It was just exciting to be out there, to have an opportunity to play against those guys, talk a little trash,” Wallace said after the win, which snapped the Bulls’ five-game losing streak to the Pistons. “It brings a lot of excitement.”
Rasheed Wallace was among the Pistons who enjoyed seeing their former teammate.
“It was fun. We were out there talking our little junk,” he said.
Ben Wallace has been inconsistent since joining the Bulls, averaging 6.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks—all worse than any season while with the Pistons—but said he doesn’t regret the move.
“I’m comfortable,” he said. “I feel like, you know, I made the adjustment.”
Wallace and Chicago are looking to extend a three-game winning streak. The team will be without Andres Nocioni, who has missed eight of the last nine games with a foot injury and told reporters after Friday’s win he might miss three more weeks.
The Bulls are looking to win four straight for the first time since a five-game stretch between Dec. 11-19. Chicago is 3-13 in Detroit since the 1997-98 season.
The Pistons have won three straight and 10 of 11, including a 94-89 win over the Orlando Magic on Friday.
The Pistons are in first place in the Central Division, 4 1/2 games ahead of the Bulls. Cleveland is in second place, one game ahead of Chicago.