When the Knicks brought in Rasheed Wallace as a training camp invite, several insiders envisioned the veteran forward being effective later in the season and playoffs. That's because Wallace, 38, had just come out of a two-year retirement and he wasn't in basketball shape.
In the weeks that have passed, Wallace made great strides in his comeback -- and Mike Woodson hasn't been afraid to increase Wallace's minutes. After playing around four minutes each in the fourth quarter of the first two games, Wallace checked into Monday night's contest during the third period. In the Knicks' win, playing only 13 minutes, he scored 10 points and hit two 3-pointers.
"Here's a young man who sat out a few years, who's hungry to get out and play basketball, and we're giving him an opportunity," Woodson said. "He's done everything we've asked him to do, and we're just kind of bringing him along slowly. Sheed is still a talented kid. He can't play real big minutes, but the minutes he gives us are real positive."
Not only has Wallace made an impact with his shooting touch, but he's also been a defensive enforcer. If you ask any Knick these days about the evolution of the team's D, they'll mention Wallace's name right away. The power forward is the loudest one during practices and games, and he pulls guys aside with pointers.
Ronnie Brewer said it has been the little things, like Wallace's constant communication, that have made the Knicks the best defensive team in the league through the first week of the season (85.3 points allowed per game).
"Even when he's not on the court, he's on the bench calling out every series, every play, our matchups, each person's thing they've got to do on defense," Brewer said.
So what's next for the need for Sheed?
Woodson has featured the same smaller starting five in each game because the Heat and Sixers positioned their lineups like that. But if the Knicks need to go bigger, should Wallace be considered as the starting power forward over Kurt Thomas while Amar'e Stoudemire recovers from knee surgery?
Thomas is a worthy shooter and defender, but the 6-11 Wallace adds more range on offense, and more length and trash talking on defense. With Wallace, the Knicks would be setting themselves up for better rim protection and then having another 3-point shooting option at the start of games to further control the tempo and build leads. Seeing how Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd have been threading the needle, getting guys open shots, Wallace would only benefit the first unit with his ability to stretch the defense and add more points.
It's also scary to think about the Knicks' presence defensively. A Wallace-Tyson Chandler frontline could be intimidating.
It would also get the fans fired up even more.
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