Saturday, November 3, 2012
'Ra-sheed Wal-lace! Ra-sheed Wal-lace!'
By Jared Zwerling
It was only a matter of time.
Just like the New York fans did at the Nassau Coliseum during the Knicks-Nets preseason game, they made it known loud and clear who they wanted to see play.
With 3:06 remaining in the contest Friday night, Knicks fans started chanting "Ra-sheed Wal-lace! Ra-sheed Wal-lace!" A few seconds later, Mike Woodson looked down the bench and called for the power forward to head to the scorer's table.
"It was cool," Rasheed Wallace said in the locker room afterward. "Nothing that didn't happen to me before."
Every time Wallace touched the ball in the closing minutes, with the Knicks up 20 points against the Heat, the fans cheered for him to shoot it. He finally did with 41 seconds to go, swishing a 3-pointer from the right wing.
Is Sheed ready to embrace being a crowd favorite, even from the bench?
"Oh yeah, I accept my Brian Scalabrine role," he said, referring to his ex-teammate and noted cheerleader. "I'm cool with it."
Reflecting on his first game at the Garden playing for the home team, he said the one thing that remained the same was the competition.
"(The Knicks) always gave us problems," said Wallace, who previously played for the Bullets (now the Wizards), Trail Blazers, Pistons and Celtics. "It was really hard for the simple fact with us being in New York, there are a lot of things to do here in the city, especially if you're that West Coast team. It's like, 'OK, I'm out here for this one game or one night, so I'm going to go ahead and have some fun.'
"And then that next day, it's the hard part because you've got to play against a bunch of good athletes and you've got to be in tip-top shape."
Wallace, 38, is still trying to get back into tip-top shape after two years in retirement. He doesn't yet have the energy to consistently bang and score out of the post, especially with his trademark turnaround jumper, but he should be able to establish a perimeter presence by setting screens, picking and popping, and shooting the 3.
If Woodson continues to focus on the pick-and-roll, spreading the floor with player movement and Carmelo Anthony attacking from the wing and mid-post, Wallace's shooting ability will fit right in -- just like Steve Novak's.
Against the Heat, Woodson didn't really look to low post at all, and with Amar'e Stoudemire sidelined, the coach will likely continue to shy away from that setup.
As Wallace works his way back, Woodson might look to find earlier minutes for the veteran. If not, Woody has the luxury of knowing the big man will be ready for the big moment when his name is called.