- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Here come the Bulls and there go the Pistons.

Ben Wallace’s money grab with the Bulls alters the balance of power in the Eastern Conference, either in a subtle or pronounced fashion.

The Bulls are not done either.

They are looking to ship the underachieving Tyson Chandler to the first willing taker, possibly the Hornets, with P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith as compensation.

Move the Bulls to among the top four teams in the Eastern Conference, with no one a convincing favorite at this point in the offseason.

Pat Riley and the Heat have the hint of being a one-season wonder, regardless of Dwyane Wade’s considerable gifts.

Riley’s team leads the NBA in arthritis and Geritol. His team is up against an athletic clock that spares no one, not even Shaquille O’Neal.

Wallace’s departure from the Pistons is the insult to the injury of their flame-out in the playoffs.

The Pistons will be hard-pressed to recover from a series of developments that left Joe Dumars in a thankless position.

He sought to re-sign Wallace but recognized the league-sanctioned emphasis on offense that penalizes the defense-minded teams, as the Bad Boys II have been.

The Pistons have not been pretty to watch the last four seasons. But they have been highly effective, with Wallace claiming the Defensive Player of the Year award in four of the past five seasons.

The Bulls overpaid to land Wallace, who turns 32 in September. His four-year, $60-million contract was calculated in a Pollyannaish vein.

Wallace will be 35 in the last year of the deal; the Bulls probably see it as a bargain if he can approximate his fearsome self in the first two seasons of the contract.

No amount of coaching is going to make him a viable threat on offense, and that includes his adventures on the free throw line that often border on the grade-school hilarious.

The Wallace surprise is a sign to the Wizards to either embrace the free-flowing style of the Suns or land a big body with some orneriness in him.

Bucks general manager Larry Harris, who seems almost obsessed on the possibility of doing business with the Wizards, quashed the rumor of a Jamaal Magloire-Poet trade earlier this week.

“That’s not happening,” Harris told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “That’s a zero. No chance.”

That is the reassessment of a general manager who provided the Poet with an offer sheet two summers ago, only to be rebuffed after the Wizards matched the offer.

As one NBA insider noted in an e-mail yesterday, aside from their Big Three, the Wizards possibly lack the appealing assets to pull off a significant deal.

“Gilbert Arenas is the truth, and Caron Butler is better than his reputation,” the insider wrote. “Antawn Jamison is good, but nothing special. Anyone else on their roster worth mentioning? Not really.”

Yet Ernie Grunfeld has managed to orchestrate improbable transactions in each of the last three summers: signing Arenas in 2003 to beat out the advances of his hometown Clippers, dispatching the Shut-it-Down artist to the Mavericks for Jamison in 2004 and dumping the serial malingerer on the Lakers for Butler in 2005, which amounted to grand larceny.

The Wizards, who claimed the No. 5 seed in the conference in each of the last two seasons, are perhaps no better than No. 6 now.

That is accounting for the drop-off of the Heat and Pistons, the rise of the Bulls, the maturation of LeBron James and the competency of the Nets.

Grunfeld is not one to express his potential options because of the drawback in allowing the opposition to have too much information.

Harris possibly could profit from that lesson.

He has had Magloire on the trading block long enough that potential suitors have scaled back their offerings in the belief that he eventually will become desperate to move a player who no longer has a place in Milwaukee.

Interested parties are waiting on Harris to blink first.

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