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Ball Don't Lie

Rasheed Wallace needs surgery on left foot, likely out for season, possibly out forever

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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Sheed contemplates. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Rasheed Wallace hasn't suited up for the New York Knicks since Dec. 13, 2012, when he scored eight points and grabbed three rebounds in 12 minutes of play in a 116-107 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. And now, it looks like he might not wear the orange and blue — or any NBA uniform, for that matter — ever again.

The Knicks announced Wednesday that what had previously been termed a "stress reaction" in the 38-year-old big man's left foot is actually a fractured fifth metatarsal — a break in the bone that runs back from the pinkie toe toward the heel, also called a "Jones fracture" — and the fracture will require surgical repair. ESPN New York's Ian Begley has more:

Recovery time for the surgery is approximately eight weeks, according to the Knicks, so Wallace likely will miss the rest of the regular season and at least the first week of the playoffs.

The Knicks say the injury — a fracture of the fifth metatarsal — was revealed via new X-rays and was a "progression" from the stress reaction in his left foot.

Wallace had been sidelined since Dec. 13 with the stress reaction. The Knicks held out hope that Wallace eventually would be able to return to the lineup, claiming that he had taken part in some aspects of practice in recent days.

As recently as two weeks ago, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported that "a recent MRI of Wallace’s left foot revealed that the stress fracture has healed," sparking optimism that Sheed would return sooner rather than later. According to Nate Taylor of the New York Times, Wallace practiced on Feb. 19, doing some light running "to test his foot while the training staff watched closely." Since then, though, he's been unable to scrimmage or get any real work in, and now we know why.

That's a bummer for the Knicks, because while Wallace's individual numbers weren't especially eye-popping — he averaged 7.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 14.6 minutes per game in his 20 appearances for New York, shooting just under 39 percent from the floor and just over 32 percent from 3-point range, and taking a staggering 8.4 bombs per 36 minutes of floor time despite claiming before the season he was coming back from a two-year retirement to "show y'all how post players really need to play" — he made a defensive impact.

New York allowed just 97.3 points per 100 possessions during the 292 minutes he played this season, according to NBA.com's stat tool; during the 22-game stretch in which he was healthy and available, the Knicks gave up 103.7-per-100 while he sat, which means the difference between the Knicks' D with Rasheed and without Rasheed during that period was like the difference between having the league's No. 2 ranked unit and its 21st-ranked squad. There are mitigating factors, to be sure — Sheed's reserve minutes came largely against opposing second units whereas the starters get opponents' top scoring threats; those stingy reserve groups also scored way less efficiently than the Knicks' starters, mitigating the defensive gains a bit; etc. — but another smart, long-armed, physical defender capable of bodying up opposing bigs in the post wouldn't be a bad thing for a Knicks team that's gone .500 (15-5) since Wallace's injury, has posted a middle-of-the-pack defense (14th in points allowed per possession) since a red-hot 18-5 start, and has been near the bottom-third of the league in defensive efficiency since Jan. 1.

That said, while the Knicks would've liked to have Wallace available down the stretch, the recent signing of free-agent power forward Kenyon Martin and the (allegedly) impending return of injured center Marcus Camby could mitigate Sheed's loss for the remainder of the regular season and beyond. And it most likely will be beyond — while the eight-week timetable does leave the door open to Wallace returning to the New York lineup should the Knicks make it to the playoffs and past the first round, realistically speaking, we'd be taking about a 38-year-old dude who's had difficulty getting into game shape with the benefits of full offseasons and training camps in the past trying to get his conditioning back in time to contribute after four months on the shelf.

While the Knicks reportedly don't plan to cut Wallace at the moment, preserving the possibility of a return, that doesn't seem like too hot a plan or too reasonable a scenario, making it very likely that this is the end of the line for one of the NBA's greatest characters. If it is ... well, thanks, Sheed.

Thanks for our name. Thanks for believing in the principle behind that name enough to get tossed for yelling it. Thanks for giving Marv Albert a reason to say our name on national television.

Thanks for being really, really good for a solid decade and playing a huge part in helping make the floor-spreading big man a valuable commodity rather than something to be derided or shunned. Thanks for playing better after you got your first tech. Thanks for yelling other cool stuff, too. Thanks for "3 to the head." Thanks for reminding us why we watch. Thanks for making a unique, indelible, still-hard-to-define-after-all-these-years mark on a generation of people who watch basketball.

Get well soon, Sheed. Thanks for being fun.

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