Wallace wins Defensive Player of the Year

Posted: Tuesday, May 03, 2005

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Most of the Detroit Pistons showed up for work Monday driving luxury sport utility vehicles and exotic sedans.

Suitably, Ben Wallace rolled in with his pickup truck.

''It fits me,'' he said.

The NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award did too, for the third time in four years.

Wallace, who was presented with the trophy at an afternoon news conference, joins Dikembe Mutombo as the only players to win the award three or more times.

Much the same way he blocks shots, Wallace deflected credit to his teammates.

''I wish we could divide this up and give a piece to everybody,'' he said.

Wallace also won the award in 2002 and 2003. Mutombo won in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001.

During the regular season, Wallace ranked fifth with 2.38 blocks per game, second with an average of 12.2 rebounds — the only player among the top five in both categories — and 23rd with 1.43 steals per game.

He became just the fourth player to average at least 12 rebounds and two blocks for a fifth straight season, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan. He also joined Olajuwon, Julius Erving, Sam Lacey and David Robinson as the only players to have 100 blocks and 100 steals in five consecutive seasons.

Wallace ranks second in the playoffs with three blocks a game, fourth with 12 rebounds per game and tied for ninth with an average of 1.75 steals.

Wallace and the defending champion Pistons will try to clinch their first-round series against Philadelphia on Tuesday when they host Game 5 against the 76ers.

''He impacts the entire length of the court,'' Sixers coach Jim O'Brien said. ''He is murder down here because he cleans up a lot of mistakes with blocked shots.''

O'Brien also marveled at Wallace's ability to pressure players rebounding the ball, then harass the point guard as he dribbles up the court.

''Dennis Rodman is the only other player I've seen who could do that,'' said Joe Dumars, Detroit's president of basketball operations.

The 6-foot-9, 240-pound Wallace drew a charge near the Sixers' basket on such a sequence in Philadelphia against 6-foot, 165-pound Allen Iverson, one of the NBA's quickest players.

Wallace received 45 first-place votes and a total of 339 points from a panel of 125 members of the media. San Antonio's Bruce Bowen was second with 247 points and Denver's Marcus Camby finished third with 168.

Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers won the award last year.

Wallace's NBA career began as an undrafted free agent during the 1996-97 season in Washington, where he stayed for three seasons before being traded to Orlando.

When Grant Hill decided he was leaving Detroit after the 1999-2000 season, Dumars traded him to the Magic and acquired Wallace and Chucky Atkins.

''He's a special person because a lot of people told him things he couldn't do,'' Pistons coach Larry Brown said. ''Joe gave him a chance, and we're all pretty lucky about that.''

Wallace helped the Pistons win their third title last season and has been a key reason they've been among the top teams in the league the past four years.

''Every successful franchise has an identity and cornerstone-type players, and Ben has set the identity here and he's the cornerstone of what we do,'' Dumars said. ''We hang our hat on defense.''

Wallace never will be known for his offense, but he did average a career-high 9.7 points and a career-high 2.1 assists this season and scored a career-high 29 points in Game 3 against Philadelphia.

Thanks to his blue-collar game, likable personality and ever-changing hairdo, Wallace is arguably the most popular athlete in Detroit.

''With the workman mentality that I have and the workman mentality that the city has, it was an easy fit for me,'' he said. ''A lot of guys play in this league for a number of years and they never really find a place to call home. I can definitely say Detroit has opened its door for me and accepted me as a son.''

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