The Enigmatic Rasheed WallaceRasheed Wallace had 23 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocked shots to lead the Detroit Pistons to an impressive 90-80 road win over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. Amazingly, this is the first time that Wallace has put up at least 23 points and 15 rebounds in a game since February 10, 2005. Wallace is a marvelously skilled player and it was his arrival in Detroit that put the Pistons over the top and enabled them to win the 2004 championship. Yet he is averaging just 13.1 ppg and 7.4 rpg this season, numbers that are roughly in line with his career marks (15.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg). Those are decent stats for a small forward, not a multifaceted power forward/center. Wallace, who clearly has the rare ability to be a 20-10 guy consistently, has never averaged 20 ppg or nine rpg in a season.
At halftime of the Pistons-Spurs game--and again on the postgame show--TNT's Charles Barkley said that if you put Michael Jordan's mind in Wallace's body that he'd be the best player in the NBA, adding, "I've never seen a player who is seven feet tall who can post you up and shoot threes...but for him to only have 23 and 15 once every two or three years is a travesty." Kenny Smith echoed those sentiments: "Over 82 games, something doesn't trigger in him to say that he could dominate." Smith noted that Wallace can be dominant in short stretches, something that he will do during the postseason, and Smith believes that this is part of the reason that the Pistons consistently have made deep playoff runs since Detroit acquired Wallace.
Wallace is truly perplexing, someone who is prone to bizarre fits of rage that earn him numerous technical fouls, and yet someone who is also praised by his teammates and coaches as a player who is a wonderful teammate who has a high basketball IQ. It's almost like the game is so easy for him that he has never had to play hard consistently to do well. Wallace has an array of unblockable shots that he can deliver in the paint but he tends to drift outside, where he is also a deadly shooter--but that takes him out of rebounding position and prevents him from drawing fouls as often as true star players do.
It is so frustrating to watch Wallace play, because even though he has won a championship and earned some individual honors along the way it is obvious that he could do so much more. Smith asserts that Wallace's postseason performances are why the Pistons advance but it could just as accurately be said that some of his performances are why the Pistons have not won another title. Barkley noted that the only time that Wallace really seemed to try to dominate was right after he came to Detroit; not coincidentally, that is the only year that he and the Pistons won the title. Wallace's bonehead play left Robert Horry open in the next year's Finals and probably cost the Pistons another ring and Wallace has sprinkled in a few meltdowns/disappearing acts in recent postseasons.
Tim Duncan had 24 points and 15 rebounds in Thursday's game. The difference between Duncan and Wallace is that two-time MVP, four-time champion Duncan puts up those numbers on a regular basis, not once every three years. When some guys have a night like Wallace's, it is obviously a fluke, but there is nothing that Wallace did against the Spurs that he could not do on a fairly regular basis. The unsolved mystery is why he is not wired that way, whereas a Duncan, a Jordan or a Kobe Bryant tries to--as Barkley put it--"kill" people on a nightly basis, much like Bill Belichick's New England Patriots do.
posted by David Friedman @ 5:03 AM