- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The tattoo that runs down the upper half of Rasheed Wallace’s right arm — at first glance as indecipherable as hieroglyphics — couldn’t be more appropriate.

Why would someone as hard to figure as Wallace to go along with everyone else in the NBA and wear Chinese characters?

But upon closer inspection, Wallace’s body art is quite recognizable. It shows a family — Wallace, wife Fatima and three children — basking in the sun.


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“I’m gonna have to add another,” says Wallace, whose wife recently gave birth to a girl. “That’s the family.”

This seems like odd talk coming from Wallace. The Detroit Pistons forward is much better known as a bad boy than as a family man.



For years, Wallace has been an All-Star-caliber hothead. He holds the single-season record for technical fouls with 41, has accumulated 198 technicals in his nine-year career and has filled highlight reels with his confrontations with referees.

He was arrested earlier this season for marijuana possession while he was still with the Portland Trail Blazers, solidifying his standing as the most incorrigible player on the NBA’s most dysfunctional team.

But this is the same person who heads up the charitable Rasheed A. Wallace Foundation. Although Wallace publicists Patti Webster won’t disclose the total amount Wallace has donated to charities, a visit to the Web site (rawallacefoundation.com) lists at least 69 recipients of Wallace’s generosity.

This is the good Wallace.

In a basketball sense, the Pistons believe they acquired a Wallace who is much better than good in the three-team deal that brought him to Detroit from Atlanta on Feb.19. And after a 108-82 rout of the Milwaukee Bucks in the opener of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series, Wallace’s new teammates had nothing but good things to say about him.

“With Rasheed coming in — what he’s done since he’s been here anyway — to me it looks like he probably got a raw deal everywhere he went. Maybe it’s because he’s in a different situation,” said Ben Wallace, like Rasheed a former member of the Washington Bullets/Wizards and no relation. “But none of that has happened on this team. Everything has been all good.”

Indeed it has.

After acquiring the 6-foot-11 Wallace, the Pistons went 20-6 to close the regular season. Wallace averaged 13.7 points — his lowest total since his rookie season in Washington — 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks after the trade.

The Pistons set an NBA regular-season record by holding opponents below 70 points in 11 games. After acquiring Wallace, the Pistons set another league record by holding five consecutive teams below 70.

Nothing has changed since the playoffs began. Against Milwaukee, Wallace went for 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Pistons forced the Bucks, the highest-scoring team in the Eastern Conference, to commit 25 turnovers.

Joe Dumars, the club’s president of basketball operations, was a key member of the Pistons’ Bad Boys teams that won back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990.

Dumars, who was the NBA’s Executive of the Year last season, already had made one bold move when he replaced Rick Carlisle — NBA Coach of the Year in 2001 — with Larry Brown. But Dumars thought the Pistons needed to have an edge, one similar to that of the Bad Boys teams. And with Wallace, he got exactly what he wanted.

“This team has a lot of classy people on it,” Dumars said. “Rasheed has proven to be very classy, but he has an edge. We needed that.”

Wallace has adjusted well to Brown, a coach who is known to conduct three-hour practices and to be unafraid to get tough with star players — something that happened often with Allen Iverson in his six seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers. In fact, Wallace says he loves the guy.

“As far as LB is concerned, he’s cool, man,” Wallace says. “I don’t see how other players could say he’s one of those [tough] coaches, because he’s not. If you just look and see what the man wants, he wants you to be the best. He’s a veteran coach who listens to the players. I don’t have a beef at all with LB. I can’t even see myself ever getting in an argument with him.”

Like Wallace, Brown had a reputation as a hothead as a player. It is this common trait, Brown says, that allowed him to reserve judgment on Wallace rather than make assumptions about him before they began working together.

“He’s like I was when I was young,” says Brown, who is 63. “I wanted to win everything I participated in, and most of the time I acted like a complete fool. But he’s trying. It doesn’t affect the way the players or coaches feel about him, because we love him. It’s unfortunate that we see those things and we tend to judge him, just like Allen.”

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