Over-the-Hill Rasheed Wallace Won't Bring NY Knicks Closer to Title Push

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2012

Photo via hot97.com.
Photo via hot97.com.

The New York Knicks may or may not be legitimate title contenders, yet Rasheed Wallace's presence doesn't sway them in either direction.

At 38, and more than two years removed from NBA action, Wallace can only be expected to provide size and nothing else.

Yes, this is the same Wallace who spent more than a decade exploiting defenders from all areas of the court, the same Wallace who was a premiere shot-blocker and feared rebounder. Kind of.

The once-volatile power forward is no longer any of those things and hasn't been in five years.

Prior to his original retirement, Wallace was deteriorating in all facets of the game. It began during the 2006-07 campaign when he began to taper off in just about every statistical category.

And by the end of the 2009-10 season, he had hit rock bottom, posting averages of nine points, 4.1 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game on 40.9 percent shooting; it was the worst measurable season for the power forward since his rookie year.

That was two years ago, though. Things could have changed by now.

Except it doesn't work that way. Not only is he two years older, but his body is two years removed from the rigors of the NBA. You cannot just jump back into the fray after such an extended absence.

And as Marc Berman of the New York Post notes, Wallace hasn't:

With shooting guard Mychel Thompson struggling with his outside shot (2 of 12, Copeland, a Colorado grad, is strong on the team’s radar. The Knicks could need an extra young forward with the health uncertainty that surrounds Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace. ... Knicks took their first day off yesterday. Wallace could scrimmage for the first time today.

There's a bevy of enlightenment in those few sentences.

As the focus shifts to roster hopeful Chris Copeland, it's clear the Knicks are in search of some additional frontcourt firepower.


Because what they have now isn't enough, Wallace included. Aside from Carmelo Anthony, the frontcourt, specifically at the 4 and 5, is jumbled in a haze of uncertainty.

But at least for the others, there's hope and actual expectations to hold them to.

While both Marcus Camby and Wallace are perpetual injury risks at this point, at least Camby provides New York with a proven, unimpeded performer when healthy. The same goes for Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire. Even the notoriously one-dimensional Steve Novak and newcomer Chris Copeland stand to add depth worthy of a championship roster.

Wallace, though? Not so much.

Let's move beyond the fact that he hasn't even scrimmaged yet, ignore the reality that he's been boxing on the sidelines instead of practicing and address the inevitable: He's nowhere fit for contender duty.

Even if Wallace makes it back on to the court, even if he pushes his body to the limits, does he really stand a chance against any of the league's younger, more mobile, hybrid big men?

Wallace was never a conventional big man, which beckons the question why he wouldn't fit within a league where true low-post presences reign anything but supreme. After all, he's a stretch forward in every sense of the classification.

Yet he isn't, not anymore.

Most stretch forwards rely on athleticism, their ability to attack the rim and hit the outside jump shot. Not only has Wallace never been much of a rim-rocker, he's now lukewarm at best as far as three-point threats go. He knocked down just 28.3 percent of his attempts in during the 2009-10 campaign, and there's no reason to believe that, as he pushes 40, those numbers will go anywhere but down.

So, how is he supposed to help the Knicks contend for a title when he's not even fit to practice or even matchup against the Association's other stretch forwards?

He can't. He hasn't been able to, in fact, since before he retired. 

Tepid regular season stint with the Celtics aside, we cannot forget how much of a non-factor he was when Boston pushed Los Angeles to seven games in 2010. That postseason he averaged just 6.1 points and three rebounds per game on 41.6 percent shooting.

And the year before that, in 2009, when the Pistons hoped he could help propel them back to postseason glory, he floundered. Wallace posted just 6.5 points and 6.3 rebounds on 37.6 percent shooting in over 30 minutes per contest, helping Detroit to a swift first-round exit.

But that was then, this is now.

Now, when Wallace is older, slower and less likely to generate any lift in his jump shot. Now, when Wallace is, at the very least, two years removed from any sort of NBA regime. Now, when the Knicks are on the verge of becoming the oldest team in the Association's history and are in need of capable youth and guaranteed minutes and production, not a gluttony of additional question marks.

Now, when he and his head coach have admitted he is no more than an insurance cog in this supposed championship machine.

So yes, that was then and this is now. 

Wallace couldn't bring the Pistons or Celtics closer to a title then, and he won't be able to bring the Knicks any closer now.