When the NBA's version of Christmas Day, namely the league's trading deadline, came and went yesterday, the Detroit Pistons found their stocking stuffed with a rather significant gift, namely All-Star forward Rasheed Wallace, while the New York Knicks got a lump of coal.
The two-time defending Central Division champion Pistons, who have spent most of this season looking up at the Indiana Pacers, obtained the troubled but gifted Wallace from the Atlanta Hawks in a three-team deal that was the biggest of deadline day.
"It gives us a real shot to compete at the highest level in the NBA right now," said Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars.
Meanwhile, the Knicks were unable to swing yet another deal, despite reports that they were close to acquiring center Erick Dampier and guard Nick Van Exel from the Golden State Warriors for a package that included center Dikembe Mutombo, forward Kurt Thomas and guard Shandon Anderson.
Still, the Knicks have remade their roster since Isiah Thomas took over as team president in January, having dealt for guards Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway as well as forward Tim Thomas and center Nazr Mohammed.
A 6-foot-11 forward in his eighth year, Wallace is considered one of the NBA's most talented and versatile frontcourt players, averaging 17.1 points and 6.6 rebounds in 2003-04.
He also carries significant baggage with him. Wallace led the NBA with 41 technical fouls in the 2000-01 season, was cited last year with Portland teammate Damon Stoudamire on marijuana possession and was suspended seven games for threatening a game official after a game in Portland.
Still, Pistons coach Larry Brown, who attended North Carolina as Wallace did, was enthusiastic about obtaining the mercurial Wallace, hoping to team him on the frontline with center Elden Campbell and forward Ben Wallace, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
Rasheed Wallace is in the final year of a contract that pays him more than $17 million a year, and was thought to be an attractive acquisition, despite his reputation, because a team that acquired him could either re-sign him or use his salary cap slot to get other players.
"That fact that we didn't have to break up our team and we were able to add the guy we did, it made it a no-brainer move for us," Dumars said. "It created cap space, and we didn't mess with our core."
Atlanta acquired Wallace from Portland to clear cap space and will now could be about $20 million under the salary cap after the season.
Even so, Cleveland coach Paul Silas said he couldn't understand why the Hawks made the deal. "That's going to make the Pistons awfully tough," Silas said. "I just don't know what some people are thinking about."
In recent weeks, Wallace has said he wanted to play for the Knicks, though they will be unlikely to offer him more than the midlevel cap exception of approximately $5 million a season.
The Pistons sent guard Bob Sura and center Zeljko Rebraca as well as a conditional first-round draft choice to Atlanta. That pick will come from Milwaukee this year if the Bucks make the playoffs. Detroit shipped guards Chucky Atkins and Lindsey Hunter and its own first-round pick as well as cash to Boston. The Celtics sent guard Mike James to Detroit and forward Chris Mills to Atlanta as a part of the deal.
In other deadline trades, the Utah Jazz sent guard DeShawn Stevenson and a conditional second-round pick to the Orlando Magic for guard Gordan Giricek, then traded forwards Keon Clark and Ben Handlogten to the Phoenix Suns for forward Tom Gugliotta and two conditional first-round draft picks.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.