Bulls

Ben Wallace's five best games in a Bulls uniform

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Ben Wallace's five best games in a Bulls uniform

Expectations soared when reigning Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace signed a four-year, $60 million deal with the Bulls in July 2006.

The Bulls were coming off a .500 record in 2005-06, falling in six games to the eventual champion Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

But adding the 31-year-old Wallace was expected to inject life into a Bulls defense that young Tyson Chandler hadn't been able to; the Bulls then traded Chandler to the New Orleans Hornets for P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith.

But Wallace never lived up to his billing after leaving Detroit, averaging 5.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in two seasons. The Bulls then dealt Wallace to the Cavaliers in a complex, 11-player deal at the 2007 trade deadline.

Wallace will have his number retired tonight in Detroit, where he spent nine seasons and was an instrumental part of the 2004 championship team and was named Defensive Player of the Year four times.

And while his time in Chicago was brief and rather insignificant - other than the headband debate - here are five of Wallace's best games in a Bulls uniform:

5. Dec. 1, 2007, vs. Charlotte: 10 points, 19 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 blocks, 41 minutes

One of Wallace's biggest box scores came in his second season with the Bulls. Wallace was the leading force on the glass as the Bulls out-rebounded the Bobcats a whopping 48-24. The Bulls had 19 offensive rebounds, with Wallace contributing eight of them that led to seven points. Wallace became the fourth player since 1985 to record at least 19 rebounds, five steals and four blocks, joining Hakeem Olajuwon (four times), Charles Barkley and Michael Cage. The Bulls won 111-95, with Ben Gordon's 34 points leading the way.

4. Apr. 29, 2007, at. Miami (playoffs): 13 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 7-8 FT, 36 minutes

It wasn't a monster line for Wallace, but rather a capping off of his stellar defensive work against Shaquille O'Neal in the Bulls' first round sweep. In Game 4, Wallace limited O'Neal to 16 points and seven rebounds; O'Neal averaged 18.8 points and 8.5 rebounds in the series but wasn't much of a factor, logging a -54 +/- in the four games. Wallace, on the other hand, was a +51. And in that Game 4, Wallace went 7-for-8 from the free throw line, this coming after he shot 40.8 percent from the charity stripe in the regular season. O'Neal from the free throw line in that Game 4? 0-for-7.

3. Dec. 13, 2006: 15 points, 20 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 5 blocks, 39 minutes

Another stat stuffer for Wallace, who totaled at the time his season-high in both points, rebounds and blocks in a win over the SuperSonics. He became the first Bulls player since Horace Grant in 1993 to record at least 20 rebounds and five blocks in a game. Since Wallace accomplished the feat, only Joakim Noah has reached those totals in a Bulls uniform, doing so in 2009 and 2013.

2. Feb. 22, 2007: 14 points, 19 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 7 blocks, 44 minutes

Squaring off against LeBron James and the Cavaliers, the Bulls got an incredible performance from Wallace. His 19-rebound effort helped the Bulls win the battle of the boards, 52-40. And of Wallace's seven blocks, five came in the first half when the Cavs scored just 31 points. It marked just the second time the Bulls had topped a LeBron-led team in Cleveland, and the first time since King James' rookie season.

1. Dec. 15, 2006, vs. Milwaukee: 10 points, 27 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks, 48 minutes

Too bad you couldn't have had Wallace in your FanDuel lineup on this night. He played all but the last six seconds in a victory over the Bucks. The 27 rebounds were the most by any player in the NBA since 2002, when Wallace grabbed 28 rebounds in a 2002 win over the Pistons. No player reached the 27-board mark until 2008, when Marcus Camby did so against the Bulls in 2008. The fact that he added six assists, three steals and three blocks only add to what was clearly his best performance in a Bulls uniform.

How Michael Jordan reacted to Robert Parish taunting him at Bulls practice

How Michael Jordan reacted to Robert Parish taunting him at Bulls practice

Don’t mess with The Chief. Michael Jordan learned that lesson at a practice during Robert Parish’s lone season with the Bulls in 1996-97 — the last of his 21-year career.

Appearing on CLNS Media’s Cedric Maxwell Podcast, Parish told the story of him taunting Jordan (a rare sight at a Bulls practice in the ’90s), and the shock Jordan responded with. 

“We were scrimmaging, we played like six games going to five points. And so after the first two games, Phil (Jackson) put me with the second unit who I always played with. You know, my boys,” Parish told Maxwell. “We proceeded to kick their (the first unit’s) butts like four straight games. And Michael took offense to it, so I asked him, ‘How did he like that butt whooping?’

“He took offense to it because clearly no one ever manned up to him, you know, challenged him. So he said if I wasn’t careful, he was going to kick my ass. And I told him, ‘I’m not in awe of you. I’ve played with some of the baddest fellas there walking the court … And I’m supposed to be in awe of you?' You know, he’s looking at me like I had slapped his mug (laughs).”

Parish ended his career a four-time NBA champion — thrice with the Celtics (1981, 1984, 1986) and once with the Bulls (1997). He cited his experience playing with all-time greats from Larry Bird to Kevin McHale to Bill Walton to Maxwell as reason for not being intimidated by Jordan. 

Still, his gumption apparently sent shockwaves down the roster. 

“Derrick Dickey (Dickey Simpkins?) couldn’t believe that I talked to Michael like that,” Parish told Maxwell on the podcast. “Clearly, Michael was the alpha, you know, it was his team. He ran the ballclub and everybody kind of like got out of his way and let him do his thing.”

Parish added that he respected Jordan’s brazen leadership style, but that he preferred the manner in which Bird operated.

“Everybody got their own style, and the way they lead. Michael was in your face, he challenged his teammates,” Parish said. “Larry was our leader (with the Celtics), and he led by example. You know, he wasn’t a vocal leader, he let his play dictate how we should play. I think Larry’s style and philosophy makes the best leaders, because if you are a yeller and a screamer, after a while your voice fall on deaf ears and players just kinda tune you out, don’t hear what you got to say.

“I respect both leadership styles, but I prefer Larry’s style the best. Cause you know, some nights you don’t want to hear what he got to say, speaking of Michael. He all up in your face talking trash, you know, he might get a short right, man (laughs).”

Fair enough. Jordan’s abrasive ways weren’t for everyone. Surely, he’s content to let his six rings speak for themselves.

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Michael Jordan: 'I won't play' if Isiah Thomas is on Dream Team in new audio

Michael Jordan: 'I won't play' if Isiah Thomas is on Dream Team in new audio

The plot continues to thicken on the revived Michael Jordan-Isiah Thomas feud that has bubbled during and in the wake of “The Last Dance.” Tuesday, audio surfaced of Jordan admitting that he wouldn’t play for the 1992 Dream Team if Thomas was included on the roster.

The clip comes by way of the Dream Team Tapes podcast with renowned sports journalist Jack McCallum, who authored “Dream Team,” a book that chronicled the construction of the 1992 USA Olympics squad that took the world by storm.

 

Though a bit warbled, Jordan’s ultimatum is clear: "Rod Thorn called me. I said, ‘Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.' He assured me. He said, 'You know what? Chuck (Charles Barkley) doesn’t want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team.'"

That audio, according to the podcast, is from an interview McCallum conducted with Jordan for the book in 2011. McCallum reported the fruits of this conversation in “Dream Team,” which came out in 2012:

Rod Thorn, who as general manager of the Bulls in 1984 had drafted Jordan, was assigned the most important task: pulling the prize catch into the boat. Thorn called Jordan directly sometime during the summer, after the Bulls had won their first championship. (In fact, all of the invitations were extended directly to the athletes, not through agents…) So let’s be clear right now about what Jordan said in that first phone call.

‘Rod, I don’t want to play if Isiah Thomas is on the team,’ Jordan said.

I wrote that in Sports Illustrated at the time, not because Jordan confirmed it, which he didn’t, but because at least two reliable sources did. At the time, Jordan more or less denied that he would stand in Isiah’s way.

But he did confirm it to me in the summer of 2011. ‘I told Rod I don’t want to play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.’ That’s what he said.

Still, controversy framed as rumor continued to surround Thomas’ exclusion from the team, including in “The Last Dance.” In a present-day interview in the documentary, Jordan denied requesting Thomas be left on the roster. 

“It was insinuated that I was asking about him. But I never threw his name in there,” Jordan said. “Based on the environment and camaraderie that happened on that team, it was the best harmony. Would Isiah have made a different feeling on that team? Yes. You want to attribute it to me? Go ahead, be my guest. But it wasn’t me.”

In an interview on ESPN’s Golic & Wingo, Thorn, who chaired the USA Basketball Men's National Team Selection Committee in 1992, echoed Jordan’s version of events.

“When I called Jordan, his first inclination was he didn’t know if he wanted to play or not because, as he said, ‘I played on an Olympic team before (in 1988),’” Thorn said. “'It’s for the younger guys as far as I’m concerned.' 

“So we continued the conversation, and at the end of the conversation, he said, ‘You know something, I’ll do it.’ There was never anything in my conversation with him that had to do with Isiah Thomas. Period.”

But now we have audio that directly contradicts those accounts, and corroborates decades-old speculation (and McCallum's reporting) that Jordan played a specific party to Thomas being left off the team. Jordan's invoking Barkley also confirms that there was Dream Team-wide anti-Thomas sentiment. And funny enough, all of this comes from Jordan himself.

Thomas said in “The Last Dance” he didn’t know what went into the decision-making process for the Dream Team, but that he wasn’t selected in spite of, in his estimation, meeting the desired criteria.

If we didn’t know already, we now know for sure what led to his exclusion.

RELATED: David Robinson: Isiah Thomas shouldn’t be surprised about Dream Team snub 

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