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 Wallace charms Chicago 
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Modmin Dude
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Post Wallace charms Chicago
freep.com wrote:
CHICAGO -- He said he was misunderstood a lot, that he never wanted to take 20 shots per game, that he just wanted to be part of the action at both ends of the floor.

He said it was tough to leave Detroit, where he turned himself into an icon, won a championship and became the face of a franchise.

He said the last week and a half has been difficult, because he's still in Detroit, because he watches the news and reads the papers and knows the city that showered him with love the last six seasons loves him considerably less today.

But mostly, he said it was strange.

And it was.

How could it not be?

There he was, Ben Wallace, sitting against a Chicago Bulls backdrop in the posh Stadium Club at the United Center in Chicago, sandwiched between Bulls general manager John Paxson and coach Scott Skiles, smiling and charming the Chicago media.

"Ben," asked a reporter, "why do you think your free-throw percentage is so low?"

"Um, because I miss more than I make."

The room exploded.

It was funny. It was honest.

"I'm real simple," he told the crowd.

He told them his rebounding prowess was nothing more than hard work. He told them his defense was simply a matter of energy. He told them his blue-collar ethic should play well in Chicago, as it did in Detroit.

"My personality fits this city perfectly," he said.

That's what the city he just left thought, too.

He is aware of the irony, if you want to call it that.

"I thought I embodied everything Detroit is about," he said.

And of his move to one of the city's natural rivals?

"It's like taking sides with the enemy," he said. "It's a very strange feeling. You feel like you're leaving home, leaving your teammates. It's tough."

He said he left for a fresh start, for a chance to complete his game, for the contract (read: the money), for the chance to build another championship team.

"It was a combination of things," he said.

It was a combination of things, too, that drove Paxson and Skiles to bring Wallace to Chicago.

"This is a huge day for us," Paxson said. "It was a no-brainer. Ben is a game changer. He seems to represent no-nonsense. He's a hard worker."

Skiles, the former Michigan State point guard who has developed a reputation as a somewhat combative, willful coach, said he was drawn to Wallace's defense, rebounding, talent and swagger, something Skiles displayed when he was on the court.

They were asked whether the Bulls were now the team to beat in the Central Division, where the Pistons also reside.

"This raises expectations," Skiles said.

So what happens now when Wallace returns and takes the Palace court in red?

"Get your popcorn and sit down and watch," he joked.

The crowd loved that, too.

But after the news conference was over, after he stood with his white, sparkling No. 3 Bulls jersey as flashbulbs popped, after the Bulls employees in the room finished their standing ovation, Wallace took a minute to reflect.

"It's intimidating," he said. "I'm a bit nervous."

The ground underfoot wasn't as certain now, in this strange place, where all these strange faces surrounded him.

"I look at it as I'm taking on a different opportunity," he said.

And then he added, "I am who I am. Nobody is going to change that."

Contact SHAWN WINDSOR at 313-222-6487 or swindsor@freepress.com.

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July 17th, 2006, 4:02 pm
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