As Bulls coach Scott Skiles continues to tinker and tweak with his rotation and lineup combination, there is and will be one constant up front.
Ben Wallace.Even in preseason play, which continued Monday night with the Bulls' 87-78 victory over the Grizzlies, the what-you-see-is-what-you-get Wallace is an anchor.
With Skiles trying--and likely using--more and more small lineups, a dominant force in the middle is needed. Or, as Skiles puts it, a "hellacious big man." Even at a generously listed 6 feet 9 inches, Wallace is that.
"He's so long," Skiles said. "And he's a smart player. He's always been a low-foul and low-turnover guy. Now, he's gained a reputation that he's an intimidating force."
That's what four Defensive Player of the Year awards do. But those were earned with Detroit, where Wallace became synonymous with that team's blue-collar work ethic and punch-the-clock motif.
How refreshing for Skiles to have that mentality on his side.
"I asked him how he felt about his minutes and he said, `Whatever you want to do, however long you want me to play, I'm ready,'" Skiles said. "That's how he is."
The Bulls' biggest free-agent acquisition ever finished with five points and nine rebounds against the Grizzlies.
But Wallace's game rarely is about statistics. It's about the bone-jarring screen he set in the first half's dwindling seconds to free Ben Gordon for a jumper. Gordon missed, but Wallace grabbed the offensive rebound.
It's about the third-quarter charge he took and the help defense he provided as Damon Stoudamire dribbled past Kirk Hinrich and then a quick move for the defensive rebound.
"As far as making shots or getting execution down on the offensive end, those things take a little time," Wallace said. "But rebounding, playing defense, contesting shots, those are just about effort. You can do that regardless of how the game is going."
Similarly, Wallace downplayed his off-the-court transition, which included his third child arriving and buying a new house.
"It's going real well," Wallace said. "I've got a great wife at home who helps me so much and we're feeling real comfortable in Chicago."
The Bulls (3-0) overcame 26 turnovers and what Skiles termed "poor guard play" with 56.9 percent shooting and Viktor Khryapa's eight assists.
Tyrus Thomas scored a team-high 12 points and added four blocks, one of which began a fast break ended by Martynas Andriuskevicius' three-point play that sealed matters with 94 seconds remaining.
"Those were great blocks," Skiles said. "But we need him to rebound. Like a lot of young players, his effort isn't consistent."
The Grizzlies, who might struggle to win 30 games this season, played without Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, Jake Tsakalidis, Stromile Swift, Brian Cardinal and rookie Rudy Gay. For the meager 8,764 fans at the FedEx Forum, that's like taking the Graceland tour and getting Yanni instead of Elvis.
Luol Deng will fly to London on Tuesday to receive his British citizenship in a Wednesday ceremony. Born in the Sudan, Deng moved to London at 9 when his father, the war-torn country's minister of transportation, received political asylum. Deng, who will miss Thursday's game in San Antonio, hopes to play for the British national team next summer.
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