Jim Davis/Globe Staff
The transformation of Rasheed Wallace is complete, the enemy of the people now serving as the man of the hour. As seamlessly as Wallace has joined the Celtics on the floor this season, he made a similarly fluid entry last night in his first home game at TD Garden.
In Boston, Rasheed now dresses in white.
"I didn’t know if the fans wanted to keep it personal and still call me those names or what," Wallace mused in the wake of the Celtics’ 92-59 annihilation of the outmanned, overmatched and outclassed Charlotte Bobcats. "It was cool though."
Cool, indeed. Cool as Wallace entered the game to chants of Sheeeeeeeeeeeeed with 4:06 remaining in the first quarter, cool as Wallace drilled his first two shots, both 3–pointers, helping the Celtics build a 22-11 lead in the opening quarter. Cool even as Wallace dressed in front of his locker following the game, when he donned a black sweat jacket bearing the name and logo of the Philadelphia Phillies, as sure a sign as any that he has embraced Boston as firmly as Boston already has embraced him.
'Sheed, it seems, plays by the same rules many of you do. If he is not necessarily rooting for the Red Sox, he is at least rooting for whoever is playing the Yankees.
So here we have it again, yet another example of how you can go from bad guy to good guy with a simple wardrobe change. As a member of the Detroit Pistons, Wallace was perceived here as a contemptible hothead whose inability to control his temper sometimes hurt the cause. Now, as a member of the Celtics, Wallace is a highly-skilled skilled big man with what the Celtics like to call "a high basketball IQ," a man who brings passion and experience to a team that, when fully healthy, might have the deepest and most talented roster in the NBA.
The truth, as always, probably rests somewhere in between, though that hardly matters now. On both sides, never is the love affair involving a veteran player greater than that first season in which he changes uniforms. At this stage, Wallace is certainly happy to be out of Detroit following a reconstruction of the Pistons team that was once an annual force in the Eastern Conference. And we certainly know that the Celtics and their fans are thrilled to have him given what Wallace can provide for everyone from Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett to Kendrick Perkins and Glen (don’t call him Big Baby) Davis.
"I mean, he’s such an impact on the defense end, and I think that’s where his value is coming in the most," said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. "The way he defends, the way he rebounds and also the way he spread the floor with his presence - I mean, when he’s on the court with Kevin, especially, you see the lane is open. You have driving lanes because teams are helping off of him because of the way he’s shooting the ball. And he’s the total package, I mean, on both ends of the court.
"I mean, he fits the mold of our ball club with his energy, his passion and what he’s all about – you know, winning a championship," Pierce concluded. "His personality is perfect with what we have over here."
Why shouldn’t it be? So Wallace blows a gasket every now and then. Big deal. He is clearly going to help the Celtics more than he hurts them. In just shy of 16 minutes last night, Wallace scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds while converting 3 of 8 shots, all from 3-point distance. In the Celtics’ two games thus far, Wallace is shooting as well from long distance as Ray Allen. Both are 6 of 14.
If there is still anyone who thinks Wallace may have difficulty accepting a lesser role than he filled in Detroit, remember that he was on the floor with Pierce, Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo during the final minutes on Tuesday’s season-opening victory. As anyone with a brain will tell you: it’s not who starts, but rather who finishes.
What we have here, minus the low-post game, is the closest thing the Celtics have had to Kevin McHale since McHale retired, albeit in a montage of snapshots from McHale’s career. Simply put, Wallace is a big sixth man who can play defense and shoot 3s, all roles McHale filled at assorted points of time, in varying capacities, during his time in Boston.
The technical fouls and the jousting with officials? Accept them now as costs of doing business. Even last night, after teammate Kendrick Perkins drew a technical, Wallace noted that Perkins was whistled for the manner in which he looked at an official. The new big man then openly wondered if the same official will make the same calls when glared at by certain unnamed "superstars," which certainly seemed like a defense of Perkins and a shot at the officiating, not to mention a playful jab at whiners ranging from the East (LeBron James?) to the West (Kobe Bryant?).
"I want to see if they’re going to call that all year," Wallace all but snorted.
But then, we knew the guy could snipe from long range.
Whatever your feelings for Wallace before he came to the Celtics, here’s a suggestion: forget them all. You can never truly get to know someone from a distance as well as you can get to know them from up close, and Wallace will be with the Celtics for the next three years. Upon first glance, Wallace seems far smarter than one might have guessed and a far better teammate than anyone would give him credit for, and history has taught us (Corey Dillon, Randy Moss) that players certainly can adapt to their environment.
Of course, it always starts with wearing the right uniform.
Tony's Top 5
Favorite blog entries