AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Rasheed Wallace was stunned when Detroit coach Larry Brown broke the news at halftime.
“I went up to Rasheed and said, ’You and Mike (James) can’t play,” Brown recalled. “He kind of laughed. I said, ’I’m serious.’ He said, ’You’re not serious.’
“We’re on national TV, with all this attention, a full house, it’s crazy it’s not right.”
After Wallace — acquired from Atlanta on Thursday in a three-team trade — played 12 minutes in the first half, the NBA ruled he could not play because paperwork from the deal had not been completed by the start of the game.
Minus their newly acquired big man, the Pistons lost to Minnesota 88-87 on Friday night.
“I felt like they wasted all of our time,” said Wallace, who had four points and two rebounds.
Kevin Garnett had 25 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Timberwolves to their fifth straight victory, then he raved about Wallace and what he can do for the Pistons.
“Take it from the guy that has played against him for six or seven years, he gives them a big and different dimension,” Garnett said. “This team is one of the best teams in the NBA, not just the East. They’re coming out of the East.”
Wallace was dealt just before the trading deadline Thursday after playing only one game for Atlanta, which acquired the temperamental player from Portland last week. The Pistons also added James in the three-team trade that also involved Boston. James had one foul in five minutes.
Wallace sat on the bench in his warmups in the second half, and encouraged his new teammates during timeouts.
“All the necessary paperwork was not received by the league,” Pistons spokesman Matt Dobek said. “It will probably be cleared up (Saturday).
The Pistons expect Wallace and James to play on Sunday at home against Orlando.
“It’s a matter that will have to be reviewed by the league,” NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.
In Miami where Atlanta was playing the Heat, the Hawk’s acquisitions in the deal, Bob Sura and Zeljko Rebraca, were kept out of the game when the team was told by a league representative that none of the players involved in the trade should play.
When Wallace stepped on the court with 4:31 left in the first quarter, he was welcomed with a rousing, standing ovation.
“That showed me that they want me here and that showed basketball is alive and well in ’The D,”’ Wallace said.
When he didn’t return to the floor in the second half, fans started chanting “We Want Wal-lace!”
“I was saying, ’Me, too!”’ Wallace joked.
The night started much differently for Wallace.
He walked into his new locker room Friday and was greeted with hugs, handshakes and smiles by his Detroit Pistons teammates.
“There he is!” Darvin Ham said. “Welcome!”
“It’s definitely a fresh start for me,” Wallace said before he made his Detroit debut. “This is where basketball has taken my journey. It’s pretty much revamped my career. I’m looking forward to it.”
Pistons coach Larry Brown said Wallace is one of the top five players in the league, but he tried to downplay expectations for Wallace.
“I don’t want anybody to think he’s coming in here to save us,” Brown said.
Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said Wallace gives Detroit a chance to contend for the NBA title.
“They were already one of the top three teams in the East, but now they have to be considered a serious threat to go all the way,” Saunders said.
“If I don’t screw us up, we have a chance to make a run,” he said.
Besides adding Wallace for the rest of the season, the deal will put Detroit about $10 million under the salary cap this summer.
Wallace, in the final year of a contract that pays him $17 million this season, was called for a league-record 41 technical fouls in the 2000-01 season. Last season, he and former Portland teammate Damon Stoudamire were cited in Washington state on marijuana charges while returning from a game in Seattle.
Wallace was also suspended by the NBA for seven games for threatening an official on an arena loading dock after a home game. That was the league’s longest suspension for something that didn’t involve physical contact or substance abuse.
“I remember when I was a player and a young coach, when things went wrong, I did crazy things because I wanted to win so badly,” Brown said. “It’s taken me over 30 years to calm down, for the most part, and I’m still fighting that every day.
“When you see him go nuts on the court, it’s because he cares about winning. I want to fight his battles.”
Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars said Wallace’s past problems never entered into his decision-making process.
“Everywhere he has been, his teammates and coaches rave about him as a teammate and as a guy to coach,” Dumars said. “I don’t think you’ve ever seen him have issues with his coaches or his teammates. It’s always been officiating and getting upset about calls.
“This is a situation where he is going to be surrounded by high-character guys and it is going to be a great environment for him.”
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