Wallace backs away from past certainty

Updated: June 18, 2004, 12:25 AM ET
Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Ben Wallace and Richard Hamilton of the NBA champion Detroit Pistons have been asked to play for the U.S. Olympic team in Athens.

Both said Thursday they had yet to respond to the invitation.

"I haven't really thought about it," Hamilton said after a daylong celebration with fans. "I'll probably take a couple days to think about it."

Wallace said essentially the same thing. But earlier this month, he seemed to be sure of his intentions.

"They asked me if I would say 'Yes' to playing on the team, and I said, 'Yes,' " Wallace said on June 1. "I don't know if they have decided what to do because they haven't announced it yet."

Wallace is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. He was on the All-NBA second team and Eastern Conference All-Star team for a second straight time this season. Wallace averaged 10.3 points, 14.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks for the Pistons in the postseason.

Hamilton is among the best players in the NBA without an All-Star appearance. He averaged a team-high 21.5 points -- five more than any of his teammates -- in 23 playoff games for Detroit.

The USA Basketball selection committee has had to scramble to fill its 12-player roster for Athens because many stars opted against playing in the Olympics.

The U.S. team will be led by Pistons coach Larry Brown, who only said, "I have to talk to Ben and Rip," when asked about their plans.

If Wallace and Hamilton decide to play, they will not get much of a break this offseason.

After practicing next month in Jacksonville, Fla., the team will play exhibition games in three European cities before heading to Athens. The Olympics start Aug. 13 and end Aug. 29, about two months before the start of the NBA season.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press