It seems it is ages ago from this picture. Rasheed Wallace arrived to the Boston Celtics last summer ready to a fresh new start with a championship contender. Many journalists observed that the Celtics were then "The Big 4" while some fans wondered if he would start in the place of Kendrick Perkins. The press conference was solemn, the Big 3 had lost some holidays in the quest of the best free agent the market had. Sheed was aging, and there were some issues with his character, but after the Stephon Marbury we were almost certain that there would be no issues. Furthermore, Wallace was a long time friend of our emotional leader and he was a veteran in search of a final glorious end, so we took for granted that he would blend well in this team.
By training camp, Sheed showed up surprisingly overweight and he was projected to be our sixth man, making our bench a true solid with the likes of House, Daniels, Baby and Wallace. For the first couple of months, Sheed refused to play in the post, preferring to shoot from the three point line. He stretched the floor and scored sometimes to add a punch from the bench. While his first months were quite succesful, fans started to dislike his addiction to the outside shot and his reluctance to play hard on the defensive end. You could find two explanations for this phenomenon:
1. Doc loves to have big players shooting from outside, allowing the penetrations of Pierce and Rondo
2. He was 35 and his game shape didn't allow him to be as intense as he used to be on defense
One way or another, it was understandable that with time, these two issues would be solved. Sheed would get into game shape and that would make him fight more under the glass and shoot less three pointers.
Rasheed's best games as a Celtic came with the new year, starting in the absence of injured Kevin Garnett. He logged big minutes and had some great games, notably against the Toronto Raptors. His stats started to show an improvement and his role grew in importance. I personally started to be thrilled with the addition of Wallace to our squad: a savvy veteran who added experience, talent and personality to a team that with Garnett and Pierce healthier (and probably after a February trade for youth) would be a solid candidate to win the big prize in June.
But more surprisingly, KG came back and Sheed started his slow decline. First, it was understandable since his minutes went down again. But after the first adjustments we saw some really poor performances in big games against the Lakers, for example. It seemed Sheed was completely lost in the team. We all remember KG lecturing him at the Staples. His game never really recovered after the All Star. There were two faces of Wallace in the months to be followed:
1. The intense but unstoppable Sheed, racking up T's and even arguing with his coach during a game (that may have cost him his season)
2. The lackadaisical player, seeming not to really care about defense and rebounding.
While he adjusted his game to shoot dramatically less from the outside and concentrating more on the inside post, he still didn't play completely well. His game shape was much better than in October (he must have lost some pounds since then) but his rebounding didn't go up.
By the end of the season everybody was hating on Sheed, regretting his signature for the whole Mid Level Exception and I believe that for the first time management, coaches, fans and Wallace all realized that the marriage between the mercurial veteran player and our institution wasn't successful. So I believe we all moved to the fact that come playoffs time, a new season would start and also a fresh new chapter for Sheed to prove everyone wrong.
During the Miami series, Wallace has been a non factor. Nobody can say he played poorly, it's just that he didn't add anything to this team. Sheed wasn't there, that's all...we couldn't glimpse any sign of the raging bull and his "ball don't lie". And I, for the first time in the season wondered WTHHT Rasheed Wallace.
There are multiple explanations for what may be happening with Rasheed Wallace, and we will probably have more information in the post-season. But until then (let's hope after we win the title in June ;) maybe these are some possible clues to the situation:
1. Rasheed Wallace has played for 15 years in the league and accumulates an extra 160 playoff games to his resume. That is technically 17 years of basketball piercing through his flesh. He may be physically worn out, done. And that may have altered his reaction and approach to the game. As KG, Sheed has always played, through injuries and against the world and realizing that he physically can't compete at a good level may have provoked his occasional crazily and exaggeratedly reactions and some other times his willingness to let the game go, as if he wasn't there
2. Problems with his role in the team. As mentioned before, Sheed had his best games when he started in January. He's never really been a reserve in his career and maybe he just can't be a bench player. Some players can't. He is a veteran and all vets need time to heat up and produce. It is possible that Sheed needs more time on the court to be the player we all want to see. The only problem is that his D isn't showing up, and therefore Doc doesn't want to risk losing games at this stage of the season. Sheed may have fought with the fluctuations of time on the court and may have been frustrated with this too
In any case, we are in the middle of a playoffs epic battle against the fiery Cleveland Cavaliers and we have no time for any of this right now. Whether or not Sheed has been struggling with some issues or another his time in the Celtics has come.Rasheed Wallace needs to produce, he knows it, his team knows it and we all know it. The Cavs have a massive frontline with Shaq, Varejao, Hickson...even Leon Powe can't find any room there... We need Sheed and some more production from the bench to outlast the Cavs.
The Final test for Sheed is waiting to be written in Cleveland's arena. The past games are meaningless, melancholy is useless for this game. This is game 1 for Sheed in his new and successful era with the Celtics. And it's only up to Wallace to pass this test and help us advance to the Conference Finals.
The jury is set, Sheed. Only you can prove them wrong. It's now or never, don't fail us