AUBURN HILLS -- On the surface, things are pointing favorably to the Pistons being able to re-sign unrestricted free agent Ben Wallace this summer.
They are prepared to make him the highest-paid player on the team, offering a four-year contract that could pay him as much as $12 million next season.
Wallace, who will turn 32 in September, has said repeatedly his heart is and has always been with the Pistons.
He has been at the Pistons' practice facility working out the last couple of weeks while waiting for his wife, Chanda, to deliver their third child.
Stability and security, Wallace has said, are every bit as important to him as the size of the number in front of the six zeroes on the contract.
Teams that have the most money to spend on free agents this summer -- Charlotte, Atlanta and Chicago -- don't appear interested in throwing a maximum contract at Wallace.
Charlotte already has an expensive, defensive-oriented big man in Emeka Okafor. Atlanta used its first-round draft pick on power forward Shelden Williams. Chicago appears to be targeting less-expensive centers Joel Przybilla and Nazr Mohammed.
At this point, the Pistons appear to be bidding against themselves for Wallace.
But don't get too excited just yet. There is an unknown variable, an X-factor, who will begin asserting himself into the equation beginning Saturday -- the first day free agents can begin negotiating.
His name is Arn Tellem and he is one of the most respected and successful agents in professional sports. Wallace hired Tellem for that very reason -- to beat the bushes and find the best deal available.
Wallace believed it was in his best interest to remove himself from the negotiations -- remove, as he said, "my heart." This will probably be his last major NBA contract and he didn't want his emotions or loyalties to cloud the process.
Wallace knows if teams aren't lining up to sign him right now, Tellem will most likely find some.
"The ball really is in Ben's court," Pistons president Joe Dumars said. "We just have to wait and see how it plays out and what is put out there. We have to see what the sticker price is going to be."
Plan A is to re-sign Wallace, probably to a four-year deal. But if Wallace is seeking a maximum contract -- one that would start at between $14 million and $17 million -- the Pistons would likely move to Plan B.
"When everything isn't in your hands, you have to have contingencies," Dumars said.
There is no telling what direction the Pistons will go if Wallace signs elsewhere. Most likely, Dumars would try to work a sign-and-trade because comparable free-agent centers are nonexistent. For now, though, Dumars won't discuss any plan that doesn't involve the re-signing of Wallace.
"The only way this team makes any drastic changes is if Ben doesn't re-sign," Dumars said in his postseason address June 5. "But my intention is to have our top six players back."
That's not to say there won't be significant roster changes. Dumars cleared the deck Wednesday for Carlos Delfino to take on a more prominent role by trading Maurice Evans to the Lakers.
Assuming Wallace does re-sign, the Pistons plan is to use both the mid-level exception (a deal starting at approximately $5 million) and the veterans exception ($1.3 million).
They hope to add a perimeter scorer, preferably one who can break down defenses off the dribble and make plays at the basket, and a quality, veteran backup point guard.
"Our ability to count on the same five and six guys has run out," Dumars said. "At some point you have to start adding players to the mix, and not just periphery guys, but significant guys we can add to the mix."
Bonzi Wells, a former Pistons draft pick who was arguably the Kings' best postseason player last season, appears to be the primary candidate. He can play all three perimeter positions and has proven himself to be a volume scorer.
With the way the NBA game is being officiated, players like Wells, who are quick, strong and can get to the basket, are valuable. Wells has had behavioral issues in the past, but he's going to be 30 in September.
Dumars believes being shuffled between three teams in the last three seasons has had an effect on Wells.
Speedy Claxton, of the Hornets, and Bobby Jackson and Chucky Atkins, of the Grizzlies, are also on the Pistons' radar. All three are essentially combination guards who can handle the point and break defenses down off the dribble.
Will Blalock, the Iowa State point guard the Pistons selected with the 60th pick on Wednesday, will also be given a long look. Dumars said he thinks Blalock has the potential to be a change-of-pace guard to complement Chauncey Billups.
"He's quick and he has a strong body," Dumars said. "He's explosive to the basket, he sees the floor and he has a good handle on himself. He's very much in control on the floor."
The Pistons have picked up the option on Amir Johnson for next season, though he might be another year from cracking the rotation.
They have also made a qualifying offer to Alex Acker, which makes him a restricted free agent and gives the Pistons the right to match any offer without making a guarantee.
Acker, who was pressed into learning the point-guard position last season, will be back at his natural shooting-guard position.
Dumars said he was still hoping Lindsey Hunter would return. Hunter, who is 35, apparently is leaning toward returning.
Tony Delk has decided to forgo his option to return to the Pistons and will become a free agent. The Pistons have mild interest in re-signing him, but only if the other candidates fall through.
The Pistons are also restructuring the coaching staff. Lead assistant Sidney Lowe left to become head coach at North Carolina State.
Flip Saunders said Wednesday that Ron Harper, Don Zierden and Igor Kokoskov will return.
The Pistons were hoping to add two former head coaches to the staff -- Terry Porter and Jim O'Brien -- to replace Lowe. O'Brien has notified the Pistons he is planning to stay out of coaching for another year.
There is still a good chance Porter will be hired, though he is exploring the possibility of joining a group that would buy the Portland franchise.
You can reach Chris McCosky at (313) 222-1489 or firstname.lastname@example.org