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Change you can't believe in

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  December 22, 2009 12:31 PM

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It's not always easy for Boston sports fans to accept the truth, and I'm not referring to Celtics forward Paul Pierce.

No, I mean the idea that right now they have to root for two of the most intractable figures in all of professional sports -- Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss and Celtics power forward Rasheed Wallace -- and find a way to cover up their warts so they can feel good about doing it.

Here in the Hub of Homerism there is a parallel between the two immensely talented and immensely temperamental athletes. Both Moss and Wallace mix appreciable talent with recalcitrance. Both are capable of boorish behavior with the media and beloved by their teammates. Both were brought here by teams desperate to recapture championship glory, Wallace this summer and Moss in 2007.

It's a Dorian Gray-type deal for the teams and their fans. They're willing to sacrifice their souls a bit for unique talent. Wallace is the only player in NBA history to collect 100 blocks and 100 3-pointers in the same season multiple times -- four. Only Jerry Rice can match Moss's nine seasons with 10 or more touchdown receptions and only Rice exceeds Moss's 145 career touchdown receptions.

Both Moss and Wallace had their first real flareups with their new teams last week. On Dec. 13, Moss caught one ball, dropped two passes and failed to finish out an out route that ended up in a Tom Brady interception against the Carolina Panthers, the effort -- or alleged lack thereof -- coming four days after he was one of four players sent home for being late to an 8 a.m. team meeting.

Last Friday night, Wallace's combustible behavior reared its head. With the Celtics leading the Philadelphia 76ers, 42-29, in the second quarter, Wallace picked up a pair of technical fouls while on the bench and was booted from the game, but not before having to be restrained by Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau. Without Wallace coming off the bench, Sixers big men Elton Brand and Marreese Speights (combined 40 points and 18 rebounds) had their way and Philadelphia walked away with a 98-97 win.

When he was asked by reporters on Sunday whether he was upset with himself for being ejected, Wallace, who has nine technicals this year after having one rescinded by the NBA yesterday, expressed no remorse or regret.

“Nah, not really to answer your question. Honestly, I wasn’t. I still play my game. I ain’t changing my game for nobody," said Wallace, who set an NBA record with 41 technical fouls in 2001 and led the league last season with 17.

That's being honest. If you expected Wallace or Moss to change then you're not. We had Manny being Manny and now we have Randy being Randy and 'Sheed being 'Sheed.

It's delusion bordering on hypocrisy to believe that the behavior of Wallace and Moss would be different or better because they're one of us now, that their past issues had to do with playing for dysfunctional teams like the Trail Blazers or the Raiders.

Wallace and Moss haven't changed. Only our tolerance for them and their behavior has because they're wearing the appropriate laundry now. They're the same guys you booed, or despised, or said, "[Insert team here] wins because we don't have guys like that." Only now we're willing to look the other way, just like their teammates and coaches, because in the end we believe their pros outweigh their cons.

Wallace said as much on Sunday, saying he has more pros than cons and "my worst con is my attitude sometimes."

"You know who you are," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Everybody you get hopefully you've done enough research on, and you know what they do as a player, off the court and in the locker room. You know, minus the refs, everything [Rasheed] does is great. So, what you have to do is you have to weigh it, and is that enough? Absolutely, it is."

If not, the Celtics wouldn't have signed Wallace to a three-year deal to provide them with the shooting touch and size they clearly lacked off the bench last year against Orlando in the playoffs. If Wallace had the talent/impact on the game of Ricky Davis, he wouldn't be plying his trade on the parquet. If Moss were only as good as Terry Glenn, he'd be running a permanent out route from Fort Foxborough.

It should come as no surprise that both Moss and Wallace bounced back from their attitude episodes. They always do. Moss, playing with the weight of the world on his shoulders, played his you-know-what off against the Bills in an effort that was much better than the five receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown indicated.

The defining play of the game for Moss came in the third quarter. With Brady under pressure on a blitz by Bills linebacker Chris Draft, the quarterback tossed an ill-advised pass across the field that appeared destined for the arms of Buffalo cornerback Terrence McGee. Instead,  Moss came flying out of nowhere, catapulted into the air and snared the ball while crashing into McGee to turn an interception into a 16-yard reception. That drive ended with a 30-yard field goal.

Wallace returned on Sunday against the Minnesota Timberwolves and had 10 points, 4 rebounds, and a block in 20 minutes of action as the Celtics rolled to a 122-104 win.

All is well and all is forgotten, until the next time there is some issue, and we're all too willing to be convinced that there is no issue at all. That it's simply that we haven't seen the coaches tape or weren't on the bench.

Wallace is 35. Moss is 32. They're too old to change. They're never going to be Trot Nixon or Troy Brown types, so don't make them out to be that. At this point, it's no more their fault issues arise with their on-court comportment (Wallace) or on-field effort (Moss) than it is that the sun rises. They've been enabled far too long.

You either accept them -- and root for them -- warts and all or you don't accept the truth about them.
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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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