'It's definitely a fresh start,' Wallace says

Updated: February 20, 2004, 8:54 PM ET
Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Rasheed Wallace walked into his new locker room Friday and was greeted with hugs, handshakes and smiles by his Detroit Pistons teammates.

"There he is!" Darvin Ham said. "Welcome!"

 Rasheed Wallace

Wallace was moved to Detroit in a three-team trade Thursday after playing only one game for Atlanta, which acquired the temperamental player from Portland last week.

"It's definitely a fresh start for me," Wallace said before he made his Detroit debut against Minnesota. "This is where basketball has taken my journey. It's pretty much revamped my career. I'm looking forward to it."

When Wallace stepped on the court with 4:31 left in the first quarter, he was welcomed with a rousing, standing ovation. After missing his first shot, he made two straight baskets, the second a long jumper over Kevin Garnett.

Wallace, a two-time All-Star, has averaged 16.1 points and 6.7 rebounds during nine NBA years, and 17.1 points and 6.6 rebounds this season.

Pistons coach Larry Brown said Wallace is one of the top five players in the league.

But he tried to downplay expectations for Wallace.

"I don't want anybody to think he's coming in here to save us," Brown said.

Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said Wallace gives Detroit a chance to contend for the NBA title.

"They were already one of the top three teams in the East, but now they have to be considered a serious threat to go all the way," Saunders said.

Brown agreed.

"If I don't screw us up, we have a chance to make a run," he said.

In a deal put together shortly before the NBA trading deadline on Thursday, Detroit sent reserves Zeljko Rebraca, Bob Sura and a first-round draft pick to Atlanta. That pick will come from Milwaukee this year if the Bucks make the playoffs.

Detroit also sent reserves Lindsey Hunter, Chucky Atkins, its first round pick this year and cash to Boston, while the Celtics shipped Chris Mills to the Hawks and Mike James to the Pistons.

Besides adding Wallace for the rest of the season, the deal will put Detroit about $10 million under the salary cap this summer.

Wallace, in the final year of a contract that pays him $17 million this season, was called for a league-record 41 technical fouls in the 2000-01 season. Last season, he and former Portland teammate Damon Stoudamire were cited in Washington state on marijuana charges while returning from a game in Seattle.

Wallace was also suspended by the NBA for seven games for threatening an official on an arena loading dock after a home game. That was the league's longest suspension for something that didn't involve physical contact or substance abuse.

"I remember when I was a player and a young coach, when things went wrong, I did crazy things because I wanted to win so badly," Brown said. "It's taken me over 30 years to calm down, for the most part, and I'm still fighting that every day.

"When you see him go nuts on the court, it's because he cares about winning. I want to fight his battles."

Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars said Wallace's past problems never entered into his decision-making process.

"Everywhere he has been, his teammates and coaches rave about him as a teammate and as a guy to coach," Dumars said. "I don't think you've ever seen him have issues with his coaches or his teammates. It's always been officiating and getting upset about calls.

"This is a situation where he is going to be surrounded by high-character guys and it is going to be a great environment for him."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press