I gotta tell ya. Rooting for Rasheed Wallace is going to be a very, very odd experience for me.
I generally have a lot of respect for players in the NBA. I mean, I'm a Celtics fan first, but I'm a fan of the game as well. So as long as we aren't playing them, I can admire Duncan's steady dominance, Wade's relentlessness, and CP3's court vision. Kevin Garnett was my favorite non-Celtic for years before he became my favorite new Celtic. But there are some ready made villains in the league that were easy to hate.
Now, I use the term "hate" in the most non-personal way possible (if that makes any sense at all). I don't know these people personally so it is hard to pass judgment on their moral character from watching them for a few hours a week on TV. So I base my haterade solely on their behavior on the basketball court and things directly related to the league (not to mention a few rivalry-related biases on my part).
The short list is pretty unsurprising for a Celtics fan. Kobe has been there for years for obvious reasons. Artest going to the Lakers is a perfect Molotov cocktail and I'll gleefully dance on the ashes of their season if things go as I hope. Vince Carter and Carlos Boozer are both on the list in part because of how they handled the business side of things in the past. Oh yeah, and it used to be that I could count on hating everyone on the Pistons.
But now we've got the biggest Bad Boy of them all right here in Boston. This guy was the next generation Bill Laimbeer. He fit the role of evil villain to a T (pun intended). He was, ...no scratch that ...he is brash, cocky, self-important, ...and maddeningly good.
Say the Celtics were up by two touchdowns on the Pistons in the 3rd quarter. I would find myself laughing at how invisible Sheed had been thus far and mocking his "we'll turn it on when it matters" attitude. Then he would turn it on, knock down 3 three pointers and they'd tie it up in 5 minutes. Drove me nuts.
Now, if all goes according to plan, he'll be driving fans of other teams nuts. That, I think I can get used to.
Of course I'm going into this with my eyes wide open. I know that he'll coast when the stakes aren't high. I know that he'll melt down over a bad call at the most inopportune time possible. I know on offense he'll treat the painted area like it is radioactive. I know these things because I've seen them for years from the other side.
In fact, maybe the biggest reason why I think this could work is because we all know these things up front. There's been an odd sort of vibe coming from Pistons fans during his departure. They saw the writing on the wall all last year and so did Sheed, which at least partially explains why he sleep-walked through the playoffs. I think Detroit fans weren't exactly happy to see him go, but they were understandably relieved that they didn't have to go through any of that stuff with him anymore.
In Boston, we know his warts well. We also know how well he has performed in spite of those warts. We aren't counting on him to be our leading scorer and we won't bother asking him to spend time in the paint. Baring unforeseen events, he'll be coming off the bench. He'll slot perfectly into that high post passer/shooter role. He'll hit some of those dagger shots that Posey was so good at 2 years ago. He'll fit right into the team defense and team ego mentality. He's yet another star player that is willing to (and even eager to) put winning ahead of selfish interests. In that way he really makes sense as a Boston Celtic.
Besides, the rest of the league and its fans hate us already. They've all turned on our stars as if somehow KG just started barking at people once he got to Boston. Nobody cared that Pierce talked trash till he started backing it up with wins. Nobody cared that Perkins wore a scowl 24/7 until they had to see it in on prime time in the playoffs. You think adding Sheed is going to make people hate us any more than they already do? And even if they do, would you care? It only fuels the "us against the world" mentality. Nobody outside Boston liked Red either, but they respected him.
So it will be odd rooting for Rasheed but it also makes a great deal of sense. Love it or hate it, Sheed is a Celtic. Look out league.