Wallace signs with Pistons

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Ben Wallace needed some help backing away from the idea of retirement and two old friends in Detroit were ready to help.

The four-time All-Star was ready to walk away from the game when he was bought out by Phoenix in the aftermath of the Shaquille O'Neal trade. Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton, his former teammates with the Pistons, had other ideas.

"I think Tayshaun called me first, but they were both giving me some coaching," Wallace said.

That was more than enough to convince Wallace that the time was right for his return to Detroit to reunite with the two other cogs from Detroit's most recent heyday. Wallace, who played for the Pistons from 2001-06, signed a free-agent deal Wednesday.

"It's great to be back," Wallace said. "My career took off when I was here, and I'm ready to see what will happen this time."

Wallace was one of Detroit's most popular athletes during his stint with the Pistons, especially after Detroit's 2004 championship and near-miss in 2005. That changed after the hardworking rebounder signed a big free-agent deal with division-rival Chicago in the summer of 2006.

Over the last three years, he has been booed loudly at the Palace, even when he was named to the franchise's 50th anniversary team. Wallace, though, sees that as a positive.

"I loved hearing how loud they cheered me, and I loved hearing how loud they booed me," he said. "That just meant they missed me a lot."

Wallace never had the expected impact with Chicago, and while he was more of a defensive force after a trade to Cleveland, injuries ruined his time with the Cavaliers. That's how he ended up in the O'Neal trade and then the Suns didn't want to keep him. Wallace doesn't regret his decision to leave.

"My run in Detroit was done, so it was time to go," he said. "I got to play in some new systems, and learn two new cities, and I got to play with a lot of great players. I wouldn't change it."

While Wallace will be reunited with Hamilton and Prince, he won't see other familiar faces from his run with Detroit. Antonio McDyess (San Antonio) and Rasheed Wallace (Boston) left this summer, and, most important, Chauncey Billups was traded to Denver early last season.

"Chauncey was the kind of guy that could go to any team in the league and make a positive impact," Wallace said. "It was great to see what he could do in Denver."

He will recognize new coach John Kuester from their days in Cleveland as well as fellow newcomer Ben Gordon, who came over from Chicago.

"I can't even tell you what Ben is capable of doing here, because there's no one in the league that works harder on their game than he does," Wallace said. "He'll be in the gym when you go home for the night, and when you come back, you'll have to drag him away from the court."

Wallace said he won't make any effort to get his iconic No. 3 back from Rodney Stuckey, because he feels he's changed over the last three years.

"They are getting the 35-year-old Ben Wallace now, and my hair isn't as long, and it certainly isn't as dark any more," he said. "They haven't told me anything about my role, and I'm not worried. When they call my number, I'll play the same way I always play."

The Pistons won't be counting on that style bringing four more Defensive Player of the Year awards, but anything close to his best would help solidify a questionable frontcourt.