When the rumors broke that the Celtics were indeed pursuing Rasheed Wallace earlier this summer, I will admit that at first I was less than thrilled. At the time, Wallace's personality spoke louder to me than his game actually did. I suppose I allowed myself to get caught up in the various negative media reports that have surfaced over the course of his career; the ones dealing with the technical fouls, the ejections and the various fines for repeatedly running his mouth whenever he felt discontent. By doing so, I lost sight of why we were actually interested in bringing him to Boston. Because, despite all of the aforementioned reports, Rasheed Wallace is a hell of a basketball player, even at the wise old age of 35.
Then he was signed and as time rolled on and I watched the press conference and read the now positive media reports listing the different aspects of his game which would ultimately help the team, my opinion changed. My hesitancy had turned to excitement, my doubt had turned to assurance and my trepidation had turned to eagerness.
At the same time, other reports were coming out of the woodwork, claiming that Kevin Garnett was on the mend. At long last, The Big Ticket was on his way back. While no exact timetable was in place, if nothing else, there was hope that we'd be seeing KG grace the court again. And that's when it finally clicked for me: Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett playing alongside one another. Two of the NBA's strongest personalities, yet most dedicated talents suiting up side by side, with one goal in mind: Another NBA championship.
As individual athletes, there's much more to love in Wallace and Garnett, besides reliable jump shots and enviable post games. In both players there's an everlasting commitment to defense, a championship mindset, and a gut load of raw emotion, which unearths itself most prominently during the 48 minutes of an NBA basketball game. Before this reunion was established, both these passionate players served as faces of their own franchises, while always wearing their hearts on their sleeves.
But now that they're being brought together, Wallace's talent isn't what entices me most, it's his raw emotion mixing with Garnett's. For the past two seasons, we've revelled in the Garnett-related chest bumps, primal screams and rather aggressive acts against his very own jersey. Now we have two guys like this? Is this actually allowed? The possibilities here are endless.
Of course, Wallace will most likely be coming off the bench while KG (when he's cleared) will be starting, but don't think Doc Rivers won't pair these two up to lock down the paint for a period of time. And when they do finally find the court together? Just think about it.
On the one side you have Kevin Garnett, the man who eats opponents' pick-and-rolls for breakfast, while barking like a mad dog to his teammates, seemingly keeping them in the correct defensive positions practically at all times. Wallace is of the same mold. He's a defensive guru who always knows where to position himself, while also understanding the rotations of all of his teammates. What's more? He can practically bark as loud as Garnett can. When placed together, we could very well be looking at the best interior defensive one-two punch in the entire league.
Beyond that, we're guaranteed to have the loudest defense in all the land. Screens will be called out before they're even properly set, our perimeter players will know they have help behind them before they even know they need it and we'll have two seven-footers poised to grab the rebound off of a missed shot that was forced at the tail end of the shot clock because the opposition could barely manage to swing the ball from one side of the court to the other.
One of the best things about this new companionship is that Garnett and Wallace have been steady friends on and off the court for years. You see, these are not just two veteran competitors coming together like the way Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce did two seasons ago. These two guys already know each other and therefore understand each other as people and understand each other's respective games. The trust that's already formed between these two will make them that much more formidable on the court together seeing as they already know they've got each other's backs.
Just imagine a scorer cutting through the lane to throw up a floater, only to have it batted back in his face by Garnett, who simultaneously cries his patented line of: "Get that (expletive) out of here!". Then, when the scorer recovers and forces up another shot, who's there? Wallace, who bats the ball out of bounds, while also emitting a barbaric howl. Such an immortal scene has yet to happen, but when it finally does, it will grace highlight boards and pre-game videos for the remainder of the season. And not just because of the brilliance of the play itself, but because of the display of emotion that is sure to take place after between the two. Surely, you remember KG punching Leon Powe on the floor after a marvelous finish or him screaming in Pierce's ear after a clutch jump shot. Such acts will look trivial compared to Wallace and Garnett getting in each other's faces and not out of anger, but out of appreciation and intensity. They'll fire up each other, the rest of the team, and the crowd all at once.
Furthermore, the hunger for another championship these two have is truly real. The key word here is another. Both have hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy over their heads before, so both understand the trials and tripulations that come with trying to obtain an NBA title. Beyond that, both understand that defense does in fact win championships and the 2004 Pistons and 2008 Celtics, the two teams Wallace and Garnett won championships with, respectively, were near perfect models of defensive basketball.
I haven't forgotten about Kendrick Perkins in all of this. As a matter of fact, Perk and Wallace pairing up in the paint excites me in its own right. Much like Garnett, Perkins has a passion for defense and is capable of locking down the inside all by himself. But throw in a capable sidekick like Wallace and it's an almost frightening thought. It'll be especially frightening to the replacement referees the NBA will be sending to its games this season. These refs will need spines of steel to deal with Perkins and Wallace after a 'bad' call has been made.
Both Perk and Wallace have their established facial expressions for such a scenario and have made headlines with them all by themselves. With Perk it's the classic scowl, where his mouth contorts and his brow furrows, drawing his eyebrows down and in. With Wallace, the eyes light up and the mouth makes a perfect 'O' - a look of pure shock. A replacement ref being subjected to both these looks at the same time could spontaneously combust.
But back to Garnett and Wallace. I'm convinced that these two will usher in a truly stifling defense that even trumps that of the 2008 championship team. While fatigue led our defense to fail us in last year's postseason, with Garnett and Wallace anchoring it (along with Perkins) this season, we'll be set to contend for this year's title. And when we roll into opposing arenas, our opponents won't be worried about the fact that our offense is capable of putting up 110+ points per game. Rather, our opponents will be worried that they might not be able to put up 80 points themselves.