In case you’ve missed it, Rasheed Wallace is back in the NBA. That’s right– the 38-year-old whose grungy beard likely has better stamina than his body is back for more. Sheed came out of his two-year retirement this year to sign with the Knicks, making the oldest team in the league that much more… mature. It should come with no surprise after two years out of basketball that this newest addition sat out the six exhibition games because he wasn’t in shape. So just how is Wallace fitting into his role with the Knicks, and why would an accomplished veteran of 15 years come out of a two-year retirement?
One would expect Sheed’s role to be somewhat minimal this season, being that he’s probably there mostly for his experience, leadership, and all those mystical qualities you hear that good teams have. Knicks coach Mike Woodson said Wallace is an insurance or ‘what if’ guy for the squad this season. He’s excelled at that role. Through the first quarter of the season he’s averaged 15 minutes, just over 7 points and 4 boards per contest, while helping the Knicks get off to a solid start.
The fact that he’s back and contributing certainly makes for a good story, but there has to be more to why a man 38-years-young would come out of a two-year retirement. He’s got a solid legacy: he’s an NBA champion with the Pistons and a 4-time All-Star. Money? I’m sure extra pocket change ($1.7 mil) doesn’t hurt, but there’s no way that is a major factor. Another ring? That’s what Sheed is saying, and that has to be part of the reason. Maybe he wants to pass along his knowledge of the game to his teammates? Probably somewhat truthful.
Sure these things have something to do with Sheed putting himself through the grind of an NBA season again, but we all know the real reason he’s back… He’s not done running his mouth.
He might have been able to hang up the high tops, but he couldn’t slow down his tongue. He was probably content no longer posting people up, but he’s not done putting people in their place, or at least attempting to. He even said it himself in an article with the New York Times. He explained that at his age his speed and agility obviously aren’t the same, “but yet I can still talk. That’s an extra defender out there.” Whether it’s instructions to his teammates, something he’s seeing in the defense, or a call he disagrees with, saying Wallace isn’t afraid to speak his mind might be the understatement of the century.
Wallace is widely regarded as one of the best trash talkers the game has ever seen, and his record shows… literally. He holds the record, a very safe one at that, for most technical fouls in a season with 41… that’s a “T” every two games. Many believe this record can go on the “unbreakable” list next to Wilt’s 100-point game and DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Since Sheed set this mark during the 2000-01 season, Antoine Walker’s 23 has been the most in a season. Also, a rule change implemented in 2006 forcing a player to sit out a game without pay after his 16th technical, and each additional technical after that only gives Wallace’s mark more insurance.
For his career, Wallace has approximately 317 technicals. Two of those came early in December during a classic Sheed “Ball Don’t Lie” episode that makes for must see TV. Wallace’s 317 is a solid feat nonetheless, but it fails in comparison to Jerry Sloan’s lofty 400 or so. Does Sheed have his sights set on the career mark? Only time will tell, and the clock’s ticking. If so, he better get to work. Or better yet do what he does best… just sit back and let his mouth do the work for him.
Whether he’s back in an attempt to help the Knicks bring a ring back to their storied franchise, or if he just needed an outlet for his many words and occasional tirades, Wallace has been and will continue to be worth paying attention to this season. Do yourself a favor and tune in. You never know what you might see… or hear.
By: Philip Matthews