When Rasheed Wallace's rumored return from retirement to join the New York Knicks went from speculation to passing a physical and agreeing to a contract, BDL Editor Kelly Dwyer (after analyzing the famously incendiary four-five's potential impact on the "Bockers" already ancient roster) wondered why the 38-year-old would come back to the NBA after two years on the proverbial shelf following an out-of-shape stint with the Boston Celtics:
Unless the guy cooks with Faberge Eggs [...] or is an obsessive collector of centuries-old Chinese opium bottles, then it's pretty clear Rasheed is set for life. Maybe he wants to end this part of his life — even if it means going out in a Game 7 of a first-round series instead of a Finals match against the Los Angeles Lakers — the right way.
Well, in an interview with Brian Lewis of the New York Post, we learned the answer, and it's as curious as you might expect:
Wallace — who won the NBA title with the Pistons in 2004 when [Knicks head coach Mike] Woodson was an assistant coach — did not hesitate when asked why he came back.
"Passion, just sitting watching the way some of the guys you call great post players not playing in the post," Wallace said. "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."
Before we move on, other things we learned include that Wallace "admittedly did not watch much NBA in his two year-retirement," that he thinks the Knicks are "already there" with the likes of the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics (guess he really didn't watch much NBA these past couple of years) and that he thinks college players are hungrier than NBA players (which makes sense, because NBA players can afford to buy any kind of food they choose!). Great learning. Thanks, 'Sheed!
Now, back to the matter of showing y'all how post players really need to play: Um, huh?
To be sure, emphasizing back-to-the-basket work has been a huge focal point for the Knicks this offseason, with Amar'e Stoudemire heading down to Texas to study post play under Hakeem Olajuwon (and paying a pretty penny to do so) before coach Mike Woodson (a former teammate of Olajuwon's with the Houston Rockets) decided it would do the whole team a heap of good to bring "The Dream" up north for for some preseason practice on the low block. And while the younger members of our readership might not remember it, Wallace in his younger days was a pretty sizable beast on that block, with plenty of craftiness and touch to compliment his size, strength, athleticism and ability to reverse pivot back out, elevate with those impossibly long arms and unblockable release point, and hit a fadeaway.
The reason you might not remember that, though, is that Rasheed just kept fading away. Far away. Beyond the 3-point line.
After showing an interest in letting it rip from deep during his rookie season with the Washington Bullets (14.5 percent of his field-goal attempts were 3-pointers), Wallace concentrated his efforts closer to the basket following his trade to the Portland Trail Blazers, averaging fewer than one long-range attempt per game in each of his first four seasons with the club. (Sticking with the percentage numbers, triples accounted for 4.8, 4.5, 6.5 and 4.8 percent of his shots in those seasons.)
In his fifth season in Rip City, though, Wallace began to grow more comfortable from distance, trying just over two triples per game (or 13.8 percent of his shots) during the 2000-01 season. He has never averaged fewer than three 3-point attempts per game since and, perhaps not coincidentally, he has never averaged more free-throw attempts than 3-point attempts per game since, either. In eight of his last nine seasons, more than one quarter of his shots have come from long range; in each of his last five, it's been more than one-third; in three of those five, it's been more than 40 percent. In each of his last two NBA seasons — '08-09 with the Detroit Pistons and '09-10 with the Boston Celtics — more than 44 percent of Wallace's shots have been bombs (319 of 720, 44.3 percent, in the last Detroit year and 290 of 650, 44.6 percent, with the C's).
To be fair to 'Sheed, it's not like he was bombing away without a conscience and with no results — he connected on more than 35 percent of his 3-balls in six of the last nine seasons, and his ability to draw opposing bigs away from the basket to invert defenses and create driving lanes for his guards and wings often proved invaluable. In that respect, Rasheed was one of the game's prototypical and premier "stretch fours" before we'd really coined that phrase. For the most part, his foray farther and farther from the basket was less a dereliction of duty than the development of a new dominant style of offense.
Still, though, it's not exactly like Wallace has spent a ton of time over the past seven years showing us "how post players really need to play." There's not much "old-school basketball" about taking your 7-footer, having him play pick-and-pop 24 feet away from the rim and utilizing him pretty much explicitly to shoot fadeaway 3-pointers. I don't doubt that Rasheed knows every trick in the low-post book and can flip through the Rolodex at light speed as soon as he feels a defender's forearm in his back — his mind's always been that sharp — but like latter-decade Pistons fans and Celtics fans before them, Knicks fans will likely wait to see Wallace actually park himself in the post before they believe they're about to witness the strength of 'Sheed knowledge.
A good start would be actually seeing him on the court, which, for all the fun photos of him boxing and stuff, hasn't actually happened yet. Woodson told reporters that Wallace is "still in the conditioning mode" and that the Knicks are "holding him out until we feel like he's ready to go," while Wallace says he's ready whenever called upon.
Yeah ... about that:
So that's how post players really need to play. OK, cool. Great learning. Thanks, 'Sheed!