In a Portland newspaper this week, Rasheed Wallace is referred to this way: A contemptuous, towel-throwing, referee-threatening, trouble-making franchise icon.
Does that scare you? Does that make you wonder why any team would even listen to the Blazers? pitches to unload the NBA?s most notable problem child?
Or does it make you wonder this: Why aren?t the Knicks the team bidding for Rasheed?
Wallace, with his penchant for technical fouls and mood swings on the court and almost as much trouble off of it, is a major risk for the Nets. While the team is intent on completing their roster to be a title contender while Jason Kidd is in his prime, and maybe they believe that Kidd?s leadership can even right the disaster that Wallace has been, Wallace could topple the house of cards that they have assembled.
But in New York, there are no such risks.
If he self-destructed with the Knicks, so what? Could his dysfunctional behavior disrupt the harmonious locker room? Again, so what. The harmony has equated to two straight seasons out of the playoffs.
But it is not his personality that matters anyway. It is his contract that is attractive. Wallace is entering the final season of his contract and will make $17 million. There are a lot of negatives to obtaining Wallace, but there aren?t 17 million reasons why not, so the scales tip in favor of bringing him aboard.
The risks are obvious ? back pages of the tabloids littered with his exploits on the court, chasing down referees, throwing towels, frustrating coaches and teammates ? and likely front pages of the same tabloids with his behavior off the court. And character, at least on the court and in the locker room, does mean something in this league of followers. Kidd?s talent turned New Jersey around, but so, too, did his quiet leadership in practice, in the locker room and on the court.
Despite his behavioral problems on and off the court, Wallace is a premier NBA player. (AP)
But there is an upside, too, buried beneath the venomous personality. Wallace is a premier player, one of the top 15 talents in the league, or at least on the verge of it. Suppose you can package a deal that includes Allan Houston, who makes approximately $16 million this season, and then the deal would relieve the Knicks of the $57.5 million over the following three seasons that will still be owed to Houston.
Before dismissing the possibility of Portland biting, consider the Blazers need for a quality person, which Houston undoubtedly is, and the bankroll that the team possesses. Add in a center ? Kurt Thomas ? and the deal becomes more attractive to Portland with Thomas? inside play and his own attractive contract.
The teams can sort through their own problems, the Knicks throwing in Charlie Ward, giving the Blazers some cap relief, too, and taking back Ruben Patterson, or the Knicks trying to unload one of their burdensome contracts like Shandon Anderson.
The point is that the Knicks don?t have a reason not to do it.
And if Wallace?s year in New York is a total crash-and-burn, consider the team?s salary cap implications. If the Knicks could package Houston in the deal ? and for now don?t even include any other pieces ? the team could unload Wallace?s $17 million, as well as Antonio McDyess?s $13.5 million contract at the end of the upcoming season. Ward, Thomas and Travis Knight can all run out at the end of the season, too, giving the Knicks another $16.5 million off the cap. That would push $47 million off the books, leaving the team with about $40 million including the deal to be determined still for Maciej Lampe. That puts the team that can?t even see the cap, under it in one season.
Is the deal a public relations fiasco? Maybe, maybe not. Wallace?s past would be dredged up immediately and rehashed with every foolish move he makes. But Keith Van Horn isn?t exactly thrilling the masses at Madison Square Garden. Would the Garden crowd embrace Wallace as it did Latrell Sprewell? That depends on Wallace.
Sprewell, for all of the warts that accompanied his reputation, played to the fans. Wallace has been a nightmare for fans, media and management in Portland. But he is entering the last year of his contract and has to consider what the future holds for him. Does his seemingly limitless talent make him a sure thing for a team looking to spend some cash next summer? I wouldn?t bet on it.
As of right now, there are only three teams expecting to be under the cap next summer ? and if the Heat get Lamar Odom, they might lose all of their cap space. Does Denver pollute what they?ve been building with Wallace for a big-money deal? Does Utah take a shot at a player who is the opposite of everything that the Jazz have done for two decades?
So Wallace has something to play for and something to behave for.
And what if he finds that turning that image around in a city that has given second chances is worth doing? What if he comes to New York and plays hard and keeps his nose clean? What if the Knicks get McDyess back and he actually is healthy and back to his old form? Then maybe instead of clearing cap space, the Knicks are in position to pay their own players and extend a front line of Wallace, McDyess and Van Horn.
Do any of these scenarios scare you? Or does the thought of a season with the current roster and an endless future above the cap scare you more?
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