Uncertainties abound with the Celtics these days, and not making matters any better is the frustrating play of Rasheed Wallace. In case you've missed every game this season, here's the wrap on Wallace: He shoots too many threes, does not post up enough in the paint, and doesn't rebound well enough for a seven-footer. Those are the main issues with Wallace.
However, last night against the Hornets, in a first half where many things went right for the Celtics, Wallace was making a legitimate, concerted effort to post up down low against the Hornets' big men. It was not a once-in-a-few-possessions type of deal, but instead came on a play-by-play basis. It felt like you were watching some sort of anomaly, like Halley's Comet, in the sense that it occurs once every 75 or 76 years, or in Wallace's case, every 75 or 76 games.
His numbers at the half were quite impressive (compared to what we've seen of late): 4-5 shooting, eight points, three rebounds, two blocks, and zero three-point field goal attempts. He finished with 13 points on 6-9 shooting, only took two three-pointers (making one of them), and brought down five rebounds. With the exception of two ugly turnovers, it was one of his finer performances of the season.
Ladies and gentlemen, last night's version of Rasheed Wallace was what we were all hoping for. However, because what we saw last night was so rare, the uncertainty remains. Was this a sign of things to come, or just a showing off on his part, reminding us all that he is very well capable of playing down there?
I have two theories on the matter, both of which were laid out in that last question.
Theory #1: Last night was a sign of things to come. Some would call this wishful thinking, and to an extent I do not disagree. The ratio of inside vs. outside play for 'Sheed this season has been incredibly skewed in favor of the perimeter. However, is it a coincidence that this blatant attempt to play inside (again, he did nothing but post up and take shots in the paint or shoot just outside the lane in the first half) came on the heels of Doc Rivers finally calling out his team and all of its flaws? I posted excerpts of this report from the Herald the other day, in which (whether you buy it or not) Doc is heavily criticizing his team and all of the excuses it has been afforded. On top of that, according to this ESPN report, Doc's tired of the defensive lapses, and only those who make the consistent effort on defense will receive minutes. He also alluded to the defense suffering from a lack of execution on the offensive end:
"I thought our lack of offense -- bad shots, bad execution -- spilled over to the defensive end," Rivers said. "We were frustrated with guys missing shots or not making the right play and not executing, and that carried over to the defensive end.
Is he talking about Wallace here? That's difficult to say and even harder to prove, but it's definitely a possibility. Perhaps the last handful of games in which these large leads have been blown has caused Doc to finally do what we've been hoping he's done by now all along: Sit Wallace down and flat out demand that he play in the post.
So again, was last night a sign of things to come? Has this recent stretch served as the wake up call Wallace and everybody else needed? And, despite the loss, does Wallace and everyone else finally realize how effective he can be down there? They clearly know he's a talented post player for it's impossible not to know. It's simply been a matter of Wallace actually getting down there, and in the wake of all these issues, perhaps from here on out, that conscious effort on his part will remain.
Theory #2: In a worst-case scenario, last night's display of brilliant post-up play was nothing more than 'Wallace being Wallace', in the sense that he basically does whatever he wants, meaning every once in a while he might actually feel like posting up and scoring at will. If this is the case, then the first game back following the All-Star break, he will be back to his old ways, bombing them away from three-point nation, clanging them off the rim, and setting up better opportunities for the opposition to secure defensive rebounds.
Last night could have been nothing more than Wallace saying to all of his critics, "Look, I can actually do this. Look at how good I can be when I want to be." At its best, such a display is nothing more than a frustrating taunt, reminding us of the production we could be seeing from him.
We have six days to ponder the possibilities. The optimists of the world might be inclined to give Theory #1 a chance, while the pessimists of the world who have already given up on Wallace will be sure to shoot it down. My personal hope lies in the fact that, again, Wallace was blatantly trying to post up and play down low, after so many games of indifference to the post. To me, that says he could have finally woken up, or that someone else woke him up for him. We'll just have to wait and see what life is like on the other side of the All-Star break.