WALLACE'S NEW IDENTITY CRUCIAL TO PISTONS' SUCCESS
Rasheed Wallace must have felt like a deity after the Pistons decapitated the four-headed Lakers Hydra, which truly looked ancient at times.
Defense, rebounds, and hustle, playing "the right way", as Detroit's head coach Larry Brown puts it, were what the Pistons used to convincingly stomp L.A. and bring a championship back to the Motor City.
After Game 5, Wallace's team had accomplished what most considered impossible. The win sealed the deal, shut up the critics, and gave Wallace the chance to spout gloriously.
Wallace loves to talk, Blazer fans know that.
The former North Carolina star was hooting, hollering and swearing. Ecstatic, like the emotional Wallace we remember, he chimed in with Rip Hamilton, the two repeating the masked man's favorite slogan, "Yes sir!" He hoisted his baby girl up for the fans at the Palace in Auburn Hills and he applauded the Pistons loyalists, too.
I saw Wallace don his true identity that night, but the wild child of a man came out only momentarily. His apparent appreciation for his new team and fans is what was remembered, but that same love was never really transmitted to Portland. It never has.
Maybe he didn't believe the Blazers could win a title, maybe he didn't think he could be a good enough leader. It's clear that his priorities clashed against the team interests of past and present Blazers coaches Mike Dunleavy and Mo Cheeks. Even the dreamy paychecks Paul Allen dished out weren't enough to make Wallace happy.
The multi-millionaire basketball player was never one to care much about the wins or losses in Portland. "Both teams played hard" was one quote that is still on slow burn, and the one that quickly surfaced when Wallace displayed his ear-to-ear championship grin. He had the same smile in Portland, but it always seemed to be one of a mad man.
His joking demeanor with reporters as a Piston (he guaranteed a playoff win) has no comparison to his emotional breakdowns and egregious rants to the media as a Blazer. He said the NBA was racist during a season that he raked in $17 million.
But almost overnight, Wallace seems to have master the traits of dignity and patience in Detroit.
Wallace became selfless, obediently buying into Brown's system. After the three-team swap, he willingly accepted a minimized role on Detroit's wrecking crew who, analysts said, had no chance of winning it all. It was shocking the Pistons defeating the Lakers in five games to win a championship but it was even more shocking how team-oriented, focused and dedicated Wallace was for his squad.
Unlike the other Wallace of Detroit, Rasheed was just never the heart and soul of his teams. Yet, his inconsistent roles in Portland still got the Blazers agonizingly close to championship success.
Now, Wallace can call himself an NBA champion. Fans just wish he could have given Portland reason to celebrate that title with him.
Dan Jones is a sports intern for The Observer.