Mike Nadel: The Oddest Couple: Big Ben and Joakim

Mike Nadel

Ben Wallace: role model, leader. Oh my God ... I’m laughing so hard my eyeballs hurt.

Every time I think about Big Ben leading the charge to double Joakim Noah’s suspension for insubordination, all I can do is giggle.

And when I think about Noah challenging Wallace to a fight after spotting Big Ben yukking it up on the bench during Tuesday’s blowout loss at Orlando, I laugh even harder.

Luol Deng reportedly stepped between Mr. Universe Wallace and Thin Man Noah, thereby averting Chicago’s most one-sided sports brawl since Carlos Zambrano rearranged Michael Barrett’s face. Wednesday, after denying that there had been an altercation, Noah said he wished teammates hadn’t leaked facts about the altercation he had just said didn’t happen. See? Funny!

This must be tough for fans who grew ever more fond of the up-and-coming team John Paxson assembled and Scott Skiles coached -- a crew that won 49 games last season and seemed on the cusp of very-goodness (albeit not greatness).

But sorry ... there’s just too much comedy for this to be a true tragedy.

Ben Wallace: voice of reason. Aren’t your sides splitting yet?

This is the same Big Ben who in 2006 sparred with Detroit coach Flip Saunders, even refusing to go into a game. The same Big Ben who got suspended for violating the Bulls’ rule against headbands less than

a month into his $60 million contract.

The same Big Ben who seemed more interested in hobnobbing with ex-teammates than in beating the Pistons in last year’s playoffs. The same Big Ben who helped get Skiles fired by quitting on the coach.

The same Big Ben who, statistically, is the most overpaid healthy athlete on earth.

Wallace giving Joakim Noah -- or anybody else -- “life lessons”? What next?

Dennis Rodman on promptness and decorum? Charles Barkley on the evils of gambling? Shawn Kemp on parenting? Latrell Sprewell on player/coach relationships?

Wallace, Noah & Gang are more than just a dysfunctional family, more than just a bad NBA team. They are a farce.

Quick recap: Noah was suspended a game by interim coach Jim Boylan after yelling at assistant Ron Adams in practice last week. The team’s veterans, led by Wallace, told Boylan to make it two -- with both Boylan and Paxson thinking it was a nifty idea to foster team


Think again. No matter what Noah says publicly, forgiving his teammates will be difficult, if not impossible.

And there never will be mutual respect between Wallace (who has 2 1/2 years left on a contract that makes him the highest-paid non-scorer ever) and Noah (who has the same amount of time left on his rookie pact).

If we were talking about the Shaq-Kobe Lakers, it would be one thing; their greatness would prevail despite their animosity for each other. But you and I have more in common with Bill Gates and Paul Allen

than Wallace and Noah do with Shaq and Kobe.

Paxson knew when he signed Wallace in ’06 and drafted Noah last June he was getting strange dudes with limited basketball skills. Pax never would admit it now, but he must be stunned about the degrees of their strangeness and limitations.

The GM could find a taker for Noah, an athletic, young and relatively low-paid 7-footer. But what’s Paxson supposed to do about Wallace, an overpaid, undersized, old man?

Throw in all the underachievers and crybabies on the roster, and it’s quite an outfit Pax has assembled.

Boylan obviously can’t handle these loons, and will Paxson want to saddle the next coach with Wallace? Maybe Pax will have to convince team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to eat Big Ben’s big contract and dump the Afro-stylin’ hypocrite.

Of course, if the Bulls let Wallace go, who will work with Noah on his free-throw shooting?

See what I mean about this being a farce? You couldn’t make up this stuff if you wanted to.

Changing gears

Meanwhile, in a sport involving four teams that actually can win something ....

Somebody just told me the New England Patriots have yet to lose a game this season.

Preposterous! Were that the case, wouldn’t ESPN and other media outlets have mentioned this pursuit of perfection?

Just for fun, let’s assume the rumor is true and the Patriots really are 17-0 heading into Sunday’s AFC championship game against San Diego.

The Chargers are good enough to knock the smug right off Bill Belichick’s face, right? And Randy Moss being accused of assault will distract the Pats, no?

Wrong. And no.

The only reason to side with San Diego is to put yourself in position to say, “I told you so!” just in case Tom Brady gets hurt, 10 of his teammates get kidnapped, the game-time temperature is 82 and Jupiter aligns with Mars.

Since I’m not confident any of those events will happen, I’ll say: Patriots 30, Chargers 15.

After that, this whole unbeaten thing -- if it’s true -- is bound to go public.

The Giants are a great story in the NFC. Green Bay’s a better one. Besides, who wouldn’t love a Brett Favre-Tom Brady Super Bowl?

Packers 24, Giants 17.

Mike Nadel ( is the Chicago sports columnist for GateHouse News Service. Read his blog, The Baldest Truth, at