Basketball

Wallace repeats as NBA's top defender

Detroit Pistons big man Ben Wallace makes a living swatting shots and snagging rebounds.

On Wednesday, those skills helped him pull in his second straight NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

The forward/centre led the NBA in rebounds for the second year in a row. He was also second in block shots per game. Wallace topped the league in both categories last season, joining NBA legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players to achieve the feat.

Wallace is the sixth player in league history to take the award in back-to-back campaigns.

The seven-year man out of Virginia Union averaged 15.4 rebounds per game, the highest season average since Dennis Rodman's 16.1 in 1996-97. The 28-year-old Wallace also averaged 3.15 blocks, second only to Atlanta's Theo Ratliff.

"Ben has proven himself to be the most dominant defensive player in the league again this year," said Joe Dumars, Detroit's president of basketball operations. "I'm happy to see that people around the league have recognized him once again.

"This season Wallace became the first undrafted player to be voted an All- Star starter. He is a seven-year veteran who went undrafted out of Virginia Union in 1996 and has also played for Washington and Orlando.

Wallace returned to action for Game 1 of Detroit's first-round playoff series against the Orlando Magic after missing two weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

Before the injury, Wallace was on pace to become the first player in NBA history to top the league in rebounds and blocks twice.

After three seasons with the Wizards and one with the Magic, Wallace and Chucky Atkins were traded to Detroit in a sign-and-trade deal for Grant Hill before the 2000-01 season.

Wallace joins Sidney Moncrief, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning and Rodman as the NBA's only back-to-back defensive players of the year.

Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers finished second in this year's voting. Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves was third.

with files from Sports Network