Rasheed Wallace checks the replay of a call we're sure he agreed with (Getty Images)
Breaking news: Rasheed Wallace is back in the NBA, and the Knicks are still the Knicks.
Wallace, who was last seen waddling up the court for the Boston Celtics in June of 2010, is due to sign a training camp contract with the team as coach Mike Woodson fleshes out his roster. The 38-year-old could make up to $1.7 million this year if he makes the team, according to the New York Post. The New York Daily News' Frank Isola was the first to report that Wallace took a physical on Thursday. I was the first to feign surprise to one of my cats that Wallace passed the physical.
Marc Berman of the New York Post characterizes this as a "no risk" move for New York, and he's just about correct in that regard. The versatile big man's contract is worth a relative pittance to a team that will already be on the hook for a nearly $80 million payroll even before taking Wallace on, as the team long ago committed to a massive salary structure even without matching Jeremy Lin's poison pill deal he eventually signed with Houston. At his best, Wallace will use his significant old man gifts (gifts he employed even in his early 20s) and all-around hoop smarts to contribute to the Knicks' bench. At worst, he'll just sit on the Knicks bench.
Because as long as you don't count on Rasheed Wallace, your team should be in fine shape. The Knicks are hardly championship material, and they won't be counting on Rasheed Wallace; so Sheed won't have a chance to disappoint yet another team banking on great things.
As the site Modestly Cerebral Bias points out, a series of championship-level teams have been disappointed by Rasheed before. Whether he's failed them in decisive playoff games, or struggled an entire season due to weight issues (as he did in Boston), Wallace's reputation as a do-everything team-first guy is wholly undeserved. Do-everything team-first guys don't throw towels at their starting center's head on national TV while the team attempts to unseat the defending champs.
Most worrying for Knicks fans should be Sheed's turn in 2009-10, something that happened months before LeBron James ever became a member of the Miami Heat and years before Apple introduced the iPhone (we're still researching a few of these facts). Rasheed was seen as the perfect complement to a team already featuring a gaggle of '90s-era superstars that were admittedly past their prime, but good enough as a collective to make it to a Game 7 in the NBA Finals. Sheed showed up to camp completely out of shape, following the first offseason that saw him get to choose his own team via free agency, and somehow managed to still look completely out of shape 8 1/2 months later.
Eight-and-a-half months, friends. That's a long time and a lot of minutes to work through and sweat those oldies off with. Almost to the days, beginning and end, my sister discovered she was pregnant during training camp time and gave birth to an actual human during those 2010 NBA Finals. During the same term Rasheed couldn't work off that spare tire.
Things have changed, though. Even if Rasheed were signing with the Miami Heat, he wouldn't be counted on in the same fashion in 2012-13 as was the case in 2009-10. He's a bit player, now, and not a spot-starter (which he was 13 times in 2009-10). And apologies for piling on, Knicks fans, but these Knicks are not the Heat.
What can those same Knicks fans expect from Rasheed? Well, do you remember Clifford Robinson? Dude with the headband? Think along those terms.
Wallace's last year in Boston featured him contributing a 11.4-rebound rate, which is pretty awful for a center or power forward or just about anyone who has ever been designated as a "strong defender and rebounder." Lamar Odom, as he moped through a miserable 2011-12 season in Dallas, also shared that same mark.
While it's true that Rasheed Wallace can hit 3-pointers, he's not exactly judicious with the rate he tosses them up at. Nearly half of Wallace's shots came from behind the arc in 2009-10, the guy shot one for every six minutes he played (which doesn't sound like much until you realize that he's a center, these days, and that NBA games go on for 48 minutes), and he managed just a 28 percent mark that year. His legs were lacking due to shape issues, to be sure, but 2 1/2 years off is going to remedy this?
(But he's not being counted on in New York in the same way. Gots-ta remember that.)
In the end, the Knicks will be a funny bit of trivia. The sheer amount of names on this crew — be they in-prime types like Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire; or the veteran bench including Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby — is staggering. We'd call it a failure of scouting, going after all those big names, were it not for the possibility that New York could challenge for 55-plus wins this year, and the fact that the team declined to re-sign one of the biggest names in the NBA when they let Jeremy Lin head off to Houston.
He's a bit player on a big team full of big names that wants one more crack at ending it the right way. In that regard, provided Rasheed turns things around, this is an admirable move for Wallace. He's already put in his 15 years, won a ring in 2004, and earned over $156 million as a pro. Unless the guy cooks with Faberge Eggs (you warm them and then heat up your own eggs on a skillet after they turn orange) 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. If that's the case, then what's the risk?
No risk. New for Rasheed.
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