I think it's headlines like that which caused me to fail out of the Scott Carefoot school of blog headline writing.
On to the Bulls' new 'man in the middle'...
The money now is apparently closer to $15m per instead of the Ford-reported (re-ford-ed?) $13m. Which takes away a lot of the speculation that Wallace wanted a bigger role with Detroit and he wasn't getting along with Saunders. Basically it was about the money.
But there is something to be said about how the Bulls and Wallace are a good fit. According to Sam Smith today, Wallace "told Bulls coach Scott Skiles he desired a tougher brand of coaching. Skiles didn't seem to have a problem with that." It's been long debated that Paxson and Skiles' philosophy to acquiring only driven, hard working players would ultimately keep them from effectively using a star player. But if there ever was a star player to mesh with the Bulls way of basketball, it's Wallace.
At 32 and with diminishing effectiveness the past several seasons, the Bulls did overpay for Wallace. But to land him, they had to. And spending big free-agent money on him is a better option than trading away existing talent to do the same, and the best part about this signing is that they didn't give Detroit any compensation. If it was a sign/trade centering around Tyson Chandler, the money given to Wallace would have made it a poor long-term deal.
However, now instead of looking to find a frontcourt mate to complement Chandler, they instead signed the rich man's Chandler, who they can now trade to find that elusive post player who can score and prevent the Bulls offense from completely relying on the jump shot. And that wasn't going to be found in the free agent market the way things were starting to shake out.
The Bulls are now in an even better position than they were before in terms of tradeable assets. Of all the 'deal for a star' proposals that were floated in the past season, the ones involving Chandler had me the most reluctant (well, aside from Hinrich), due to the lack of replacement. Now with Wallace on the team Chandler is a $10m bench player that they don't necessarily need to keep.
I am not advocating dealing him just to pare away salary obligations. And I don't think acquiring PJ Brown (and his expiring contract) would be anything more than a glorified salary dump. If you're going to sign Ben Wallace, and trade away part of the young core like Tyson, why not get an upgrade? That doesn't have to mean a player who is a star frontcourt talent, but at least one that can put the ball in the basket. Going further, why not package Chandler and Tyrus Thomas for a dynamic power foward, or Chandler and Ben Gordon for a top-flight 2-guard? If you're going to spend $15m and 4 years on Ben Wallace why not give him a comparable player to run with? I think this is a far more important priority than freeing up money to sign Nocioni(really...is that so big of a concern to everyone?)
The problem with such a bold move is that it may take until the trade deadline for the big names to be available in such a deal. So, while Tyson may be coming off of his worst season and likely at his lowest value, Paxson could be thinking it's better to get the roster situated now before the season than risking Chandler having an even more reduced role (I have said all along that he'll have a bounce-back season) and permanently killing his trade value.
I'll wait and see if the rumored Chandler-to-Hornets deal is official before doing the full roster assessment. But in the meantime it's easy to see how signing Wallace as it's own move makes the Bulls better. Perhaps the biggest problem the Bulls had last season was free-throw disparity, and while Ben isn't going to help them shoot more free throws, his athleticism (and perhaps more importantly: respect from the officials) will keep the Bulls from fouling as often on defense. He can single cover nearly ever player in the league, and changes this roster from young and inexperienced to a tough veteran club. I said after the draft that they had too many kids, so it's nice to get the man in free agency.