So was Wallace’s performance.
If you were to look only at the box score, Wallace had a nice night. 16 points, 7 boards, and 3 steals is normally nothing to be ashamed of. Sure, Sheed shot only 5-13 from the field, but you can forgive that because he was taking good shots. Even his five threes were all open looks, in rhythm.
But if you look a little further, Sheed demonstrated that he just isn’t the same player he used to be. He drop-stepped around Charlie Villanueva and gathered himself for the easy lay-in; out of nowhere came Ben Wallace to send it to another area code. Rasheed came almost awkwardly down the lane for a wide open dunk; Jason Maxiell met him at the rim and turned him away.
Once upon a time, Rasheed Wallace would have dunked on Ben Wallace’s head and elevated over the flying Maxiell. But this is not the Sheed we remember from the Portland Jail Blazers. This is not the Sheed who was possibly the most tantalizing talent in all of the NBA. He’s now an older, watered-down version who still possesses the basketball IQ of his younger days but, due to athletic shortcomings brought on by aging and bodily wear and tear, can no longer put all his skills on display.
Can he still help? Absolutely.
Will he ever make another All-Star team? Absolutely not.
At his best, now, Rasheed is a defensive menace and a mismatch against second-team post players. Pit Rasheed against just about any reserve big man in the league, and he’ll have a talent advantage. Match him against Dwight Howard, and he’ll probably shut him down. But when his fire isn’t lit, when he jogs down the court, lazily fires half-assed three-pointers and lollygags after rebounds, Rasheed Wallace can be a liability.
And that, more than anything, is why some Detroit fans booed him. They didn’t boo him because he left Detroit. They didn’t boo him because he went to the Boston Celtics, a rival team in the Eastern Conference. They didn’t boo him because he moved on from the place where he once won a championship. Those things are all forgivable.
No, those catcalls weren’t for his forgivable sins, but rather the effort Wallace put forth in his final season in Detroit. Mailing in the playoffs wasn’t forgivable. Being a malcontent under a new coaching staff wasn’t forgivable. And playing an entire NBA season like it was one long, extended pickup game at the park? That was entirely unforgivable.
When I look at Rasheed Wallace, I try to take the good with the bad. I know there will be nights when he just won’t bring it, times I want to scream at him to get his ass in the low post, and blatant technical fouls that might cost Boston a game or two. I know he’ll show signs of being one of the best post players in the game, and I know those signs will be far less frequent than I’d hope.
In the end, though, Sheed helps solidify Boston’s frontcourt and bolster its interior defense.
Even if he can no longer rise over Ben Wallace or Jason Maxiell.