Cut The Check: When Rasheed Wallace Shifted The Balance Of Power To The Detroit Pistons

Few players have been better at creating memorable phrases than Rasheed Wallace. One of his more underrated expressions that was utilized towards the media when frustrated with the organization that pays him? Cut The Check. Per The Oregonian in 2003.

“If it was true that I just cared about the money, then my whole attitude would be different. I want to win every game, and I want to go out a winner. If I retire from this league and I haven’t won at least one championship, I’ll feel like all my years in the league would be a failure. As far as the CTC goes, it’s a business and you can’t put your personal feelings before that. I would like to be out here, my wife likes it out here, and she’s established out here. My kids have friends out here and go to school out here. I would say we’re intertwined in the community. But if I have to go somewhere else and play, I’m not going to sit up here and boo-hoo about going. No, because at the end of the day, I will still be able to do the things necessary to take care of my family. That’s what the CTC means, whoever cuts that check, that’s who I have to play for.” — Rasheed Wallace

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With the NBA trade deadline soon approaching, a memorable one was made back in the 2003-04 season, when the Detroit Pistons were ready to contend for a NBA championship. Last year’s team made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, but general manager Joe “2 Phonez” Dumars and head coach Larry Brown realized they needed an additional boost to get over the hump.

Sitting in third place in the conference, the Pistons knew they would struggle in leaping the defending conference champion New Jersey Nets and the rising Indiana Pacers in the standings. But maybe there was an opportunity to leap their competitors in roster talent.

Detroit’s basketball team was really good, but at the time, none of us really knew just HOW GOOD these guys could be. Who knew this roster would feature a future Hall of Famer and defensive eater of worlds in Ben Wallace? Who knew this roster would spawn one of the greatest clutch shooters in NBA history in Chauncey Billups? Who knew this roster would consist of a poor man’s Reggie Miller while being one of the few who would not let the cornrows die in Richard Hamilton? Three All-Star players already on the roster, and yet a missing link was out there to be had.

That missing link, was the man we affectionally will forever call…Sheed.

Sheed. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

When the Portland Trail Blazers finally decided they had enough with all that Sheed brought, they shipped him off to the Atlanta Hawks (along with Wesley Person) for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff and Dan Dickau. Then, inexplicably, the Hawks shipped Sheed off again (along with other players to the Boston Celtics) to the Pistons for a bunch of players I won’t bother to name.

Before DeMarcus Cousins, no player who possessed such innate gifts on the basketball court while also being broadly misunderstood more than Wallace. For those like me, we would defend this man to the grave. There was nothing Sheed couldn’t do, one step in his Nike Air Force 1 His at a time. For others, the perceived hot-headedness and over-confidence in his three-point shooting caused many to turn away from the do-everything power forward. The reality was, Sheed was a volatile player who had been cast-off for perceived greener pastures. In the Pistons, a team made up of nothing but cast-offs, Sheed would join a squad that was, in his words, “full of dog-faced gremlins getting down on all fours ready to scrap.”

The end result was the Pistons eviscerating the Eastern Conference and shocking the world by annihilating the Los Angeles Lakers in five games to win the NBA championship.

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The Detroit Pistons, with Rasheed Wallace on the roster, went to five conference championships in his six seasons playing in Motown. Many would consider it money well spent, but then you realize how much money he saved the organization, you might consider it criminal. Dumars and his stress levels were elevated beyond belief as Sheed’s peers were signing lucrative deals left and right. Wallace eventually re-signed for $57 million for the next five years, and signed the contract while wearing flip flops, white socks, blue athletic shorts, a matching top, and his 2004 NBA championship hat. His peers had checks cut for them, Dumars by comparison, got a heck of a deal.

  • Kenyon Martin signed with the Denver Nuggets for $90 million over 7 years
  • Mehmet Okur signed with the Utah Jazz for $60 million over 7 years
  • Marcus Camby re-signed with the Denver Nuggets for $40 million over 4 years
  • Carlos Boozer signed with the Utah Jazz for $70 million over 6 years

In a time where teams made it about him and what they couldn’t handle as an organization, another found their missing link to greatness. Thank goodness for the 2004 NBA trade deadline.

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