Big Ben come to Chicago
Bulls think big . . . Big Ben
Paxson, Skiles meet with Pistons' Wallace in Detroit
By Marlen Garcia
Tribune staff reporter
Published July 2, 2006
John Paxson came through Saturday on his promise to think big in free agency.
The Bulls' general manager and coach Scott Skiles visited the Pistons' Ben Wallace, the biggest name in free agency, in Detroit on the first day teams could have discussions with available players.
Paxson declined to comment on the meeting with the 6-foot-9-inch, 240-pound defensive ace, who was expected to be the Bulls' top target as they decide how to spend about $15 million they have available under the NBA's salary cap.
The attempt may be in vain unless the Bulls are willing to give Wallace a five-year deal, and there is good reason for the Bulls to avoid such an offer.
Teams could be reluctant to give Wallace a contract longer than four years because of the league's "over-36" rule, which stipulates that salary payable after a player turns 36 is prorated over the previous seasons and counts against the salary cap in those seasons. Wallace will be 32 on Sept. 10 and a four-year deal would expire just before his 36th birthday.
Efforts to reach Wallace's agent, Arn Tellem, were unsuccessful.
Without a five-year deal, Wallace might not have enough incentive to leave Detroit, which he helped win an NBA title in 2004. He is a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and with him Detroit has advanced to the NBA Finals twice.
Apparently, the Bulls are the only team seriously in the running for Wallace. Other teams with salary-cap space--Atlanta, Charlotte and Toronto--have not shown significant interest. Philadelphia reportedly contacted Tellem, but the 76ers are over the cap and could obtain Wallace only in a sign-and-trade with the Pistons.
Joe Dumars, the Pistons' general manager, has said his No. 1 priority is to re-sign Wallace. The Pistons are expected to offer Wallace a four-year escalating contract that will pay him between $11 million and $12 million next season to make him the team's highest-paid player in 2006-07.
The Bulls probably would have to beat it handily to get Wallace to leave his comfort zone in Detroit. He would take their available funds and then some, which is why it would be surprising if the Bulls did it.
The signing date on extensions and free-agent contracts is July 12.