Was it too soon to write this one? Yeah probably. I mean it was just 3 seasons ago that Wally "Blue Steel" Szczerbiak was outplaying Ray Allen in the conference semifinals. You do remember that, right? I remember thinking I was hallucinating that series while watching that. How the hell could Szczerbiak be outplaying a future Hall of Famer? Ray couldn't hit a bull in the ass and Wally actually was contributing more. As for the "Blue Steel" reference, perhaps some of you never saw the movie Zoolander, with Ben Stiller. Szczerbiak just reminds me of his character, and I've been calling him that for awhile.
Wally Szczerbiak was born in Spain but grew up in Cold Spring Harbor in Long Island and was the son of former ABA player Walt Szczerbiak (Walt was playing in Spain when Wally was born). I remember listening to Mike and the Mad Dog back when Szczerbiak was at Miami Ohio and he had his first Nationally Televised Game of the season on ESPN to Kent. Wally played lousy, mostly because he had a dislocated kneecap. Walt called into their radio show to lambast Francesa and Russo:
Walt & Wally
"They buried him in New York after the first nationally televised game even though he was injured," said stage dad Walt, who played in the ABA and was a star for Real Madrid in Spain. "(Chris) Mad Dog Russo on WFAN said he was slow, couldn't pass out of double teams and was overrated."
He spoke about the reason that Wally didn't want to attend UNC or Duke because he wouldn't get the attention he needed to prove he was a star. After hearing the conversation, I really thought the Szczerbiaks were high-maintenance (Walt hadn't been scheduled to speak; he called in as an angry father).
Szczerbiak would be drafted in the first round of the 1999 NBA Draft, with the 6th overall pick of the Timberwolves. He was a solid player his first couple seasons in the league. He made all rookie first team in 2000 as a teammate of Kevin Garnett. In 2002, he'd make the All Star Game as a deserving selection. KG was never close with Szczerbiak (he punched him during practice in 2000) and it wasn't until 2004 when Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell came on board that the Timberwolves began to be really legit [still amazed to know Trenton Hassell started 74 games compared to Szczerbiak's 0 that year. I know Wally was injured and only played in 28 games but I remember him coming back that year and still being the 6th man. Guess Flip didn't want to mess with team chemistry. Btw, just admire KG's stats from those playoffs. Wow].
Wally would be dealt to the Celtics midway through January of 2006, traded for Ricky Davis. He'd play 32 games for the Celtics during that 2006 half-season, averaging 17 ppg. In 2007, he would play the same number of games, 32, in a full season. That was the campaign where we'd begin to hear from Danny Ainge constantly of Wally's "bone on bone knee problems."
In June of 2007, the Celtics were able to deal Wally along with Delonte West and first round draft pick Jeff Green to the Sonics for Ray Allen and the pick that turned into Glen Davis. To say this deal was a total heist by Boston would be an understatement. [If you think of it, the Sonics (Thunder) are still feeling the effects of that trade. If Ray Allen was in the backcourt with Westbrook and playing with Durant, that team would have a much better chance of winning a title now. Of course when Ray was dealt he was 32, and the Sonics probably didn't expect him to continue to play at the high level he has. But Jeff Green isn't better than Ray now, nor will he ever be. A Thunder team with Durant, Ray and Westbrook would be interesting to watch and in my opinion, a more legit title contender.]
Wally would play half a season with Seattle before being dealt to Cleveland (along with Delonte West again). Szczerbiak and West would each have an excellent series vs the Celtics in that second round and outside of LeBron, were possibly the 2 best players the Cavs had. That Cavs team was scrappy, Ray disappeared for the series and it would be the Celtics' hardest fought series on the way to their championship.
Szczerbiak last played in the 2009 season with the Cavs. He'd actually appear in 74 games at 20 mpg off the bench, helping the Cavs to that 66 win season, in which they'd lose in the conference finals to Orlando.
Looking back I was able to watch Wally Szczerbiak's entire pro career. He turned out to be a pretty good player, a better American professional career than his father. He won't make the Hall of Fame, but he shouldn't be remembered purely as a shooter (something many white guys have a tendency to be labeled as; well except this guy). Not sure what other players I would compare him to. [Side note: remember the exaggerated jumps he'd take before the jump ball to get himself ready?] I wouldn't say he had as good a career as Dan Majerle or Jeff Hornacek. Was probably more of a small forward and had the same body type as Majerle, but Dan was a better defender. Hornacek was a better shooter than both of them. I'd say his career ran somewhat parallel to Keith Van Horn. Not that their games were identical, but statistically speaking. Alright the hell with it, poll time, if anyone has actually read to this point: