Nazr Mohammed hasno illusions about replacing Ben Wallace. "I'm not going to try to emulateBen's game," says Mohammed, a 6'10" journeyman center who will fill thevoid created by Wallace's off-season signing with the Bulls. "I'm not goingto go out and try to get 20 rebounds a game or block 10 shots. I'm just goingto do what I do: rebound, play solid D and score when the opportunityarises."
It was just thiskind of no-nonsense attitude that prompted G.M. Joe Dumars to pry Mohammed, 29,away from the Spurs with a five-year, $30 million deal. In eight seasonsMohammed has averaged a respectable 7.1 points (on 47.8% shooting) and 5.7rebounds in just 18.8 minutes. Two years ago he started for a San Antonio teamthat defeated Detroit to claim the title.
Mohammed averaged14.4 boards per 48 minutes in 2005--06; Wallace was at 15.4. Mohammed isn'tgoing to inspire fans to wear Afro wigs and he won't wreak Big Ben--like havocin the lane--he's averaged more than a block a game just once--but he can doone thing Wallace can't: hit an open 12-footer. "We had to have a betterinside presence offensively," said coach Flip Saunders. "If you want tobeat Miami, you have to have a center who can score against Shaq."
Pistons forwardTayshaun Prince made a recruiting pitch to Mohammed even before Wallace joinedthe Bulls. "It definitely meant a lot to me that a team of their staturereally wanted me," Mohammed says. Still, he knows he won't really win overMotown fans unless he helps the Pistons win another title.
ProjectedStarting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
Record: 64--18(1st in East)
Points scored:96.8 (19th in NBA)
Points allowed:90.2 (3rd)
(second seasonwith the Pistons)
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Pistons
They mightstruggle while getting used to playing without Ben Wallace, but I don'tenvision a big drop-off. They can't win a championship, but this is still anexcellent perimeter team at both ends of the court.... Chauncey Billups seemedto lose his confidence all of a sudden in the playoffs. But he's one of theelite players in this league, and he's tough-minded enough to come back and bean MVP candidate over the next few years.... Flip Murray is an upgrade fortheir bench. He can play both guard positions and a little bit of smallforward, and he'll drive it to the goal, which was something they couldn't doduring the playoffs.... Rasheed Wallace got stuck at the three-point line sooften last year that his rebounding numbers were down. They need him andAntonio McDyess to produce in the low post if they want to go far.... Duringtheir great start last year they developed this cockiness--you could see it intheir faces. They started toying with teams by playing close for threequarters, then turning it on in the fourth. That turned me off.
Over his first four NBA seasons forward Tayshaun Prince has already appeared in81 playoff games. That figure is the highest in league history for a player soearly in his career.