We have passed the trading deadline, and you remain a member of the Detroit Pistons. And those Pistons of yours are absolutely kickin' it as of late.
What this means is that it's time for me to own up. Time for me to apologize. Because back from May through November of last year, I actually wrote several derivations of the following about you, excerpted this time from my commentary on why the Pistons' run of dominance was supposedly over:
Sheed has officially reached the "He’s worn out his welcome, it’s only a matter of time before something really horrendous happens, and the only question is if they will get rid of him before it does" stage of his Detroit tenure. He was perfect for the role he played when he entered the fold in February 2004, as the talented albeit crazy missing link that lifted a good team of cool-headed players to a championship-caliber one. But after he melted down at the worst possible time in Game 6 against the Cavaliers (a parallel to his meltdown against the Lakers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals, perhaps?), it became clear that Rasheed Wallace’s days of appearing under control – at least while in a Detroit uniform – are over.
It is time for the next general manager and coach who decide that they are the great psychologists who will allow ‘Sheed to harness his emotion and maximize his immense physical talent to take their shot. The problem here is that the Pistons have Wallace locked up through 2008-09, and if he remains in town, it is hard to imagine that the situation will not ultimately begin to resemble the end of ‘Sheed’s tenure in Portland. This isn’t a good thing. At the same time, if the Pistons do shop Wallace, I’m not sure that they are getting all that much for him, meaning that this has the potential to be quite the lose-lose situation.
There is still plenty of time left for you to justify these words, but there is also still plenty of time left for Chauncey Billups to have the demons of last season's playoffs reappear (although my guess is that Billups won't be the cause of any downfall your team meets). The early returns, however, indicate that banking on this might not be worth it for your detractors. I've already noted such with regard to the Billups matter, and now the time has come to apologize to you.
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At present, your team is playing great basketball, and you are making me look like an absolute fool.
That said, it's worth disclaiming now that I won't shy away from a slightly holier-than-thou stance in saying that what I'm about to say by no means indicates that I think you are some sort of saint these days. Or that your past transgressions have fallen by the wayside. They have not. You will likely always carry that trouble-maker reputation, and from here it certainly seems deservedly so. This letter isn't to suggest that I'm necessarily sure that you wont fall apart as you did last year in Cleveland come springtime. In fact, as a devotee of the green, I'm rooting quite heartily for exactly that to happen.
But I have already been wrong about you, because I said you were finished in Detroit. Finished bringing anything significantly positive to the table for sure, and probably finished as a Piston sooner rather than later.
Nope and nope.
You have spent the season wowing many (myself included) as you have remained from day one the heart and soul of the team PA man John Mason so affectionately calls your DE-troit Pistons. The story doesn't even come close to telling itself in your 13.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game on 43.8 percent shooting. You are the man who catalyzes this team emotionally. You have channeled the anger from last year into productive fuel that makes these Pistons go.
Even at 33 and with less athleticism than you once had, you remain a force offensively. Your long arms, sizable frame and soft touch allow you to have a post-game dependent on one of the league's most difficult to stop turn-around fade-aways. You have scored in the post, and you have stepped out and hit the three at a 36.1 percent rate this season, fairly respectable for a 6-foot-11 dude who takes four threes per game and does his work down low as well.
Even better for a big man who despite losing much of his once-abundant quickness and jumping ability is the focal point of the league's fourth-ranked defense. It is no shock that the Pistons are 3.5 points per 100 possessions better defensively with you in the court than without you Your ability to guard your man tight remains intact. Your long arms continue to block, alter and discourage shots. Your fearless play helps prevent the blue-collar Pistons from ever getting intimidated by any opponents.
And your energy sparks this team. Perhaps it is the 33-year-old power forward bouncing all around both ends of the floor. Perhaps it is the constant yelling and screaming. Or perhaps it is simply the fact that your teammates continue to believe that you are all about the team and the game and that winning at just about any cost necessary is what matters to you. They know that no matter what your behavior is, you'll be killing yourself night in and night out for them.
And they know that you always will.
A big man who can shoot, post up, move the ball and remain a superb defender is an inordinately rare commodity in this league.
A nutcase isn't.
Thus far this season, I can't help but admit that you, sir, have been far more the former than the latter.
While I'm still hoping for a meltdown, in light of past comments, I would be remiss not to congratulate you on a job well done thus far and to apologize to you for proving me wrong, at least to date.
Much respect for that.