Rasheed Wallace had always been a Knicks fan since his college days at North Carolina. But that wasn't the only reason why the 38-year-old wanted to play in New York after a two-year retirement. He wanted to prove post play was still in.
"I was just sitting back, watching the way that some of these guys that you call great post players not playing the post," he said a few weeks ago after practice one day. "So it's the passion to come back to show ya'll how post players really need to play in the post. Old-school basketball. Ya'll used to all this new young stuff, high flying and dunking. Nah, that's not basketball. There's terrible footwork by a lot of young guys out here. Let's go back to old-school basics."
Wallace has brought an old-school post presence back on both offense and defense. In the past two games, he's scored 22 points, mostly on the block, and put in work guarding some of the league's better fontcourt players in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph (Friday night), and Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough (Sunday afternoon).
With all of the talk about Amar'e Stoudemire playing more with his back to the basket, after having worked with Hakeem Olajuwon in the offseason, Wallace is filling in nicely as the second down-low option after Carmelo Anthony. Sheed is now an integral part of the offense.
"He's another guy that can off the bench and we can go to in the post. We can work off of him," Melo said after the game. "When things get stagnant out there on the offensive end, maybe we take too many jump shots at times, we're going down low to Sheed and we play off of that. So that's another option we have."
Marcus Camby, who was in the same 1993 high school class as Wallace, has been blown away by his teammate's quick progression.
"It's crazy he's been out for two years," he said. "Seeing him doing it at this age and at this level, he didn't have a training camp either. So he's pretty much just playing on the whim and playing on the fly, and it's great to watch.
"We've been going against each other since high school, and now seeing him doing it is great. Every time he makes a play, you see our whole bench is up and excited for him. So it's fun."
Because of Wallace's rapid rise, Mike Woodson has been going with him over Camby in the rotation. While Wallace and Camby are both effective defensive players, Wallace's offensive versatility has given him the edge, which has been needed with Stoudemire sidelined, because he's able to post and pick-and-pop.
"I think Rasheed has always been able to do both," Woodson said before the game. "He's going down to the block and us utilizing him, he's a good free throw shooter, he's a pretty good passer out of the post and he can make offensive plays when he's down there. That helps us during the stretch that he's in the game. So we will continue to utilize him some on the block, obviously."
Wallace has been there more for his teammates as a player-coach. All of the guys, including Camby, have been raving about his vocal leadership during practices and games.
"He's scored a lot of points in his career and now he's at a point where he wants to help out others," he said. "And it's good to have guys like that on your team."
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