New York Knicks: Breaking Down Rasheed Wallace's Impact on the Bench Unit

Ciaran Gowan@@CiaranGowanContributor IIINovember 18, 2012

Nov 15, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; New York Knicks forward Rasheed Wallace (36) celebrates a three point shot with teammate New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the first half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-US PRESSWIRE

When Rasheed Wallace was signed by the Knicks back in October, a lot of people considered it a mistake.

Having retired two years ago, it was hard to see Sheed coming back and having any sort of success. If anything, his presence was only supposed to make the team worse.

With Wallace's reputation for having a bad attitude and for getting into technical foul trouble, it looked like a strange move for a team that was looking for more positive veteran presences.

And when you add in the fact that Wallace's addition made the Knicks the oldest team in NBA history, questions started to arise as to whether or not he was worth the trouble.

But so far in Wallace's return to the NBA, it appears that Mike Woodson was right in giving Wallace another shot, as he's emerged as a surprisingly important player off the Knicks' bench.

Woodson, an assistant coach whilst Wallace played in Detroit, knew that Sheed could have an impact in New York, particularly on the defensive end.

Though Wallace spent training camp trying to get back into basketball shape—and thus missing every preseason game—he showed us a glimpse of how influential he could be with the way he communicated with the team from the bench:

It's not hard to see that this kind of thing makes Wallace a big leader for the Knicks D, along with Coach Woodson and Tyson Chandler. In fact, it's even gotten to the point where some have mentioned coaching in his near future.

Players like Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith have improved their defense leaps and bounds this season, and the addition of Wallace has clearly been part of the reason.

For that alone, he was worth the veteran's minimum contract.

When Sheed finally made his debut in the season-opening blowout of the world champion Miami Heat, he was treated more like a "human victory cigar" than anything else.

With fans chanting for him to come in the game—and Woodson giving them what they wanted—it appeared as though Sheed was going to take a Brian Scalabrine role for the Knicks.

Though Wallace was happy to play that Scalabrine role, he's already developed into someone much more important than that on the Knicks' bench.

Though he spent two years out of the game, Wallace is still a fantastic defender. Communication plays such a big part in what he does. His physical attributes may have regressed, but his knowledge of the defensive game is right up there with the best of them.

Offensively, Sheed was supposed to add some outside shooting. Though his shot has been a bit off so far, he's getting things done in the post to make up for it.

Part of the reason Wallace wanted to return to basketball was to show the youngsters a thing or two down low, saying to the New York Post:

"It’s the passion to come back and show y’all how post players really need to play — old-school basketball. Y’all are used to all this new, young stuff, high-flying and dunking. That’s not basketball. Terrible footwork by a lot of young guys out here. Let’s go back to old-school basics."

Wallace may not be a volume scorer any more at age 38, but he's already reminded us that he's still as skilled a post player as there is in the NBA. His 13-point, three block performance against Memphis proved that.

At this point, Wallace is averaging less than 15 minutes per game as he returns to full basketball shape. But there aren't many players in the league that have as big of an impact as Wallace does in so few minutes.

Wallace's leadership and direction off the bench has simply been invaluable to the Knicks during their red hot start to the season.