Grey hairs have been poking out of Rasheed Wallace's beard for quite some time now, but he's still got a little something left in the tank in pursuit of another championship. The New York Knicks know that, but they should also know that he does them no good in a starting role.
Wallace is 38 years old now. The last time he played meaningful minutes for a team on the playoff hunt was in 2010, when the Boston Celtics took the Los Angeles Lakers to seven games before losing the NBA Finals.
On a two-year hiatus from the game, Wallace preserved his NBA legs but gained two years in age.
Still, he's seen time in every game so far this season. The Madison Square Garden crowd chanted his name in the blowout win over the Miami Heat, and they were granted their wish when Sheed both came into the game and hit a three-pointer in the waning minutes.
According to Frank Isola from New York Daily News, the coaching staff even admitted he wasn't supposed to see the court before the big win.
Mike Woodson admits that he only played Rasheed Wallace against Miami because the crowd chanted his name.sulia.com/my_thoughts/d1…— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) November 5, 2012
ESPN New York's Jared Zwerling has an interesting question for head coach Mike Woodson. It involves Wallace joining the starting lineup over Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby, especially against teams with two seven-footers in their lineups.
Here's an excerpt from the article:
"Not only has Wallace made an impact with his shooting touch, but he's also been a defensive enforcer. If you ask any Knick these days about the evolution of the team's D, they'll mention Wallace's name right away."
Defense wins championships, and Woodson knows it. The pressure to start Sheed will be huge, especially considering his popularity with fans and what he brings to the lineup.
"If the Knicks need to go bigger, should Wallace be considered as the starting power forward over Kurt Thomas while Amar'e Stoudemire recovers from knee surgery? With Wallace, the Knicks would be setting themselves up for better rim protection and then having another 3-point shooting option at the start of games to further control the tempo and build leads."
All that is solid, sound reasoning from Zwerling, and frankly I would love to see Wallace out there with Jason Kidd forming the oldest duo to ever rack up stats in the same starting lineup (not really).
But frankly, it's not the right move for the Knicks.
This team is playing great right now. From the smaller starting lineup to the bench coming in and shooting the ball like the rim is a giant vortex, the Knicks are playing their own brand of basketball and it is helping them reap the benefits.
For the sake of argument, we all know the shooting will cool off and bigger teams like Memphis and Los Angeles will give the Knicks problems. When that happens, the temptation will be there to move Sheed into the starting lineup alongside Tyson Chandler and the gang.
Fight it, Mike Woodson. Fight it with all your heart.
Wallace is closing in on what could be a storybook ending to his career. He obviously didn't sign in New York to mentor the next wave of NBA hopefuls; he wants another ring.
If things continue the way they did against the Philadelphia 76ers, Wallace will work his way into a rotation spot and what I think his ultimate role will be—closer.
Always one to lay the hammer down in the final quarter, Wallace is much more suited in his old age to play limited minutes and be ready to contribute in the fourth. He has shown that he can come in cold and make shots through these first three games, so maybe he can play shut down defense, too.
Sheed is a special player and deserves one final shot to contribute. Even with Amar'e Stoudemire in the lineup, Wallace should be the primary backup once he gets his legs back fully.
The Knicks can let Jason Kidd handle the 38-year-old starter business. Keep Wallace on the bench, as the emotional leader he will soon become for this team.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team