Rasheed Wallace led the Portland Trailblazers deep into the playoffs in 1998-99 and 1999-00: two Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers, the latter series to seven games.
He was a critical member of the Detroit Pistons during their run a few years later, one that included a title in 2003-04 and a Game 7 against those San Antonio Spurs in the 2004-05 Finals.
More recently, in his last season, 2009-10, Wallace was the Boston Celtics’ serviceable sixth-man. By then, the power forward was not very powerful at all, boasting his worst regular and postseason numbers. The Celtics lost to the Lakers in seven that year, but Wallace had mostly faded by then, his Finals contribution meager (except for personal fouls of course).
Now, Rasheed has decided to come out of retirement, two years since he’s touched a basketball on any professional level. The New York Knicks are probably the only team willing to take a chance on Wallace. They think there is something there that can help them advance, or more fantastically, take them over the top in either the Eastern Conference or NBA Finals.
Didn’t the Celtics try that already?
Like many, I don’t fully understand Wallace’s invitation to training camp, though he and Mike Woodson do go back to those Pistons teams—Woodson was an assistant coach under Larry Brown. There is nothing statistically worthwhile in this signing, and it’s an invitation more for trouble than anything else.
Admittedly, the Knicks could use some shoring up in the frontcourt. Tyson Chandler and Marcus Camby have the center position locked down. Maybe Wallace would be able to pitch in there, resting Camby in garbage minutes as the third-stringer, or inevitably to cover when Chandler and Camby miss their usual handful of games to injury.
Creaky Amar’e Stoudemire is going to need some time outs at the No. 4 too, and Kurt Thomas alone is not up to the task.
An up-to-speed, conditioned Wallace might be good here.
The problem is, that's not what we have. That wasn't what the Celtics had two years ago, either. Boston’s sports entertainment network, NESN, recently quoted Doc Rivers as saying,
I thought his issue was, he needed to get in better condition. Even with us, he needed to get in better condition. I don't know, now that he's been out two years...
And guess what, Wallace is not in condition, and there’s likely only one person happy about that: Raymond Felton.
Wallace did not travel with the team to Washington or Boston for the Knicks first two preseason games, and according to Newsday’s Al Iannazzone, hasn’t even practiced yet.
The Knicks will benefit in the long run if they recognize that developing Copeland this year might pay greater dividends than wildly throwing it all on the table with Wallace. The Knicks will be better off next season, one that could find them in a better position to maybe take the East.
Doc Rivers had another thing to say: "I've got a feeling the Knicks will have a spike in technicals this year."
Say what you want about controversial Carmelo Anthony, he's pretty mellow, practically jovial. Stoudemire has a similar temperament. Same for Chandler, Felton, Camby, Steve Novak and most of this team (J.R. Smith excepted). Wallace doesn't fit, and the potential for him to be a cancer is palpable.
We’re adding a player who, as aptly put by hardwoodhoudini.com, has “been known as a questionable figure within the locker room and [whose] commitment has never been his strong suit.”
Furthermore, he “left a sour taste with Boston fans and maybe even Danny Ainge, after his one-year stint.” After Stephon Marbury and Eddy Curry, who wants any more of that? Just what the underachieving Knicks need, as if Carmelo Anthony, Stoudemire and the rest of the team aren’t under the microscope enough.
In the end, I do believe the Knicks will come to their senses, helped along by the fact that Wallace just isn't going to prove he is physically ready and wind up not guaranteeing Rasheed.
If he does prove it though, and makes the cut, New York has to pull the plug at the first bubble of trouble. I wouldn't dare play him in a critical playoff game, unless he can show over the course of a full season that his temper's in check. Even then, opponents will aim to tweak him for some free points.
For these reasons, I don't think Rasheed Wallace will blow up in the Knicks' face. They're not going to give him the chance.