Rasheed Wallace is quite the character.
Despite his obvious talent on the basketball court, sometimes his game is overshadowed by the other facets of the Rasheed Wallace Package: The technical fouls, the never ending fines (usually stemming from one of those technical fouls) and the constant shouts of, "Ball don't lie!"
You can't help but notice Wallace, regardless of your NBA allegiance. He's like a special edition DVD, which includes the main feature (the movie), but also, all the extras, which sometimes have nothing at all to do with the actual film.
If your allegiance happens to lie with the Boston Celtics, it's easy to get frustrated at times with all of Wallace's antics, particularly when they impede his play, which at times, has hurt the Celtics this season. Making matters worse is when Wallace appears to sometimes ignore his obvious talents around the rim, in favor of chucking it up from three-point nation. This strategy of his limits his assertiveness, which releases some visible (and audible) frustration from many fans, including me.
But for all of the frustrations that might stem from some of Wallace's decisions, you've just got to live with what he brings to the table, because he's not going to change. And more often than you might think, he actually makes it worth our while.
Deemed the key addition over the offseason, Wallace's resume sported plenty of three-point field goal attempts, and his versatility and ability to stretch an opposing defense were two of the supporting factors that peaked Boston's interest last July.
At first, we relished the idea of Wallace burying three-point daggers, particularly late in games when the Celtics needed to close out an opponent (shame it didn't work last night), or polish off a fourth quarter comeback. But Wallace started off the season in a veritable slump from the nation, shooting a putrid 26.3 percent from deep through the month of November. Over that same stretch though, we caught glimpses of the unstoppable play Wallace can bring to the painted area. And just like that, we (myself included) were calling for Wallace to halt his three-point blitzkrieg and park his butt in the paint. We wanted the NBA to form an 'Adopt-A-Lane' initiative, and deem Wallace President. We formed FASBA - Fans Against 'Sheed Bombing Away - and hoped Wallace would heed our call for more post play.
But one of the joys of watching Wallace comes full circle when he makes us eat our words. For the various 0-8, 1-7 and 2-8 performances from the nation this season, he's managed to balance most out with a toned down, 1-2, 2-5 or 3-6 showing in another game, which illustrates his ability to actually hit those shots.
Take a trip back with me earlier this month:
January 8, 2010: Celtics at Hawks. Celtics lose, 93-85, with Wallace, starting in place of an injured Kevin Garnett, shooting a despicable 1-8 from three-point nation and finishing with 11 points.
Now, fast forward two days.
January 10, 2010: Celtics at Raptors. Celtics win, 114-107, with Wallace, still starting, shooting 5-7 from the nation and finishing with 29 points.
We might have loathed Wallace after the Atlanta game, but we were singing his praises two days later after he played what was arguably his best game as a Celtic. And what stayed constant over that two-game stretch? His shot selection. 'Sheed has no conscience in matters like these. He knows he can hit the shots and he's going to take them. And there's really nothing we can do about it. It will be a give-and-take relationship with Wallace from here on out.
For almost every three-pointer Wallace takes, he will add in a short fadeaway on the baseline, or a turnaround jumper in the lane, or a turnaround bank shot from 12 feet out. The balance of these shots might seem skewed in favor of the three-pointers, but for all of the 'bad' we might have to suffer through, there's also plenty of 'good' that makes us happy we have 'Sheed playing for us, rather than against us.
And through it all, 'Sheed continues to be one of the most valuable players on this roster, bolstering Boston's bench and serving as Kevin Garnett's relief and (in a worst-case scenario) replacement. In terms of backups, Wallace is one of the best in the business, still bringing a defensive mindset, albeit it one that dwarfs in comparison to Garnett's. Above everything else, Wallace genuinely appears to want to win, he's a terrific locker room presence and even at 35, we're expecting much more out of him come playoff time.
If you're searching for signs of encouragement, know that last night's 3-6 performance from deep against the Magic brought Wallace's three-point shooting numbers in the month of January to 19-51, which is good for 37.3 percent, which isn't too shabby of a number.
So, we're stuck with the big guy. We're stuck with the technicals and the fines and the constant complaining to the officials. We're stuck with the inevitable three-point shooting slumps and the failed opportunities to work it down low. But we're also stuck with the short jumpers, the turnarounds, the occasional hook shots, the defense, the intensity, and the surprisingly frequent, successful three-point performances (out of nine games in January, Wallace has shot at least 40 percent from the nation in five of them). It's something we'll have to live with. But it might be easier to do so than you think.