By Sean Hartnett
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Before Sunday’s victory over Indiana Pacers, Rasheed Wallace thanked the Madison Square Garden crowd for supporting and volunteering their time to Superstorm Sandy victims, and wished Knicks fans a happy Thanksgiving.
A day earlier, Wallace and a collection of teammates were handing out Thanksgiving meals and hot chocolate to New Yorkers in need.
In the weeks following Sandy, Wallace has been very active in the Knicks’ relief efforts.
To say that ‘Sheed and the Knicks have turned out to be a great fit on and off the court would be a massive understatement. He’s provided valuable second-team minutes off the bench and brought swagger, leadership and personality to the Knicks.
‘Sheed Giving The Knicks Valuable Contributions Off The Bench
Wallace only played for 16 minutes against the Pacers, but was able to rip down seven rebounds and score nine points. This followed a 13 point, four rebound, three block effort against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.
If you were to average Wallace’s production over 36 minutes, he would be giving the Knicks 19.3 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game and 2.7 blocks per game.
Even the most optimistic of Knicks fans wearing orange-tinted glasses couldn’t have foreseen ‘Sheed having a renaissance at the age of 38 after leaving the game for nearly two years.
On Oct. 3, the Knicks lured an out-of-shape Wallace out of retirement for the veteran’s minimum of $1.7 million dollars. Even before Wallace joined the Knicks, many were poking fun at Madison Square Garden becoming an old folks’ home after the Knicks previously acquired Kurt Thomas, Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby.
With Wallace added to the mix, the Knicks had four players 38 or older on their roster and the biggest questions were being asked about ‘Sheed, who hadn’t suited up since the 2010 NBA Finals as a member of the Boston Celtics.
Woodson’s Gamble Paying Off
Knicks head coach Mike Woodson spent months attempting to coax Wallace out of retirement. Wallace seemed content, enjoying family life and shooting hoops occasionally around North Carolina courts. Bringing ‘Sheed back into the league from retirement was seen as a gamble by many, but Woodson knew exactly what he would be getting.
Previously, Woodson worked with Wallace as an assistant for the 2003-04 NBA champion Detroit Pistons. He knew ‘Sheed still had a deep love for the game, the attributes needed to still be a productive role players and the ability to rely his message and coaching philosophies to younger players.
“It’s just a matter of time before everyone buys into it. You have a defensive coach, two defensive assistant coaches — so it’s just a matter of time before everyone buys into it. Once we all do, it’s going to be hellacious,” Wallace told reporters after the Knicks’ victory over the Pacers on Sunday.
‘Sheed’s Still Got It
Like an old boxer who never lost his knockout punch, Wallace never lost his feel for the game. He’s still got that inside-out game that makes him a versatile player who can fill a number of roles for the Knicks.
Wallace can still effectively post up and score points down low and hasn’t lost his touch from behind the arc. He’s sinking important buckets from long range and on occasion is able to catch fire.
‘Sheed hasn’t lost his famous ability to trash-talk either. If anything, his ability to throw hilarious barbs at opponents and fans in visiting arenas has gotten better with age.
During the Knicks’ Friday game against the Grizzlies, Wallace ventured over toward Grizzlies fans near the scorers table pointed to his ring finger and boasted, “I still got it!” Throughout the night, ‘Sheed continued having a back-and-forth conversations (some unprintable) with the Grizzlies’ bench and fans inside the arena.
TV broadcasts during the Knicks’ game against the Orlando Magic on November 13 picked up Wallace sarcastically yelling, “Yeah, Afflac!” after Magic guard Aaron Afflalo missed a free throw.
All the trash-talk is there without the volatility of Wallace’s youth. Actually, ‘Sheed played peacemaker when J.R. Smith got into an on-court confrontation with Memphis guard Jerryd Bayless.
Throughout Wallace’s career, he’s averaged a technical foul once every two games. The only time he’s been called for a technical foul this season was when he ran around like his pants were on hire after getting called for a foul Marc Gasol.
‘Sheed is giving the Knicks solid minutes off the bench, leadership and terrific entertainment value. The Knicks organization and their fans couldn’t ask for more than what Wallace has brought to the table.
Never change, ‘Sheed… never change.
Knicks fans — how surprised are you by ‘Sheed’s production after taking two years off from the NBA? Sound off below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.