My pickup basketball game is awful. We’re talking embarrassingly terrible – so bad that I often sit out as a consideration to my team and friends. I don’t think anyone enjoys playing the Don’t Pass the Ball to Fred, 4-on-5 Offense. But I’m 23 years old and can still physically move so – most of the time – I play.
Last week I did just that. I wasn’t getting the game MVP, but I like to think I do things that aren’t in the box score – like talking trash in a way that weirds out whomever I’m guarding enough to get him to stop paying attention to the game. Sometimes it works. When it does, it usually results in my friend following with some variation of, “Fred, seriously. Stop being so strange.”
After that game, though, I felt awful. Forty-five minutes of pick-up basketball did me in for the rest of the day. All I was ready to do was sprawl out on my couch, throw on an episode of Family Feud, and watch Steve Harvey scream at people for 22-plus minutes.
Again, I’m 23 years old (though I guess I’m older in mind if the first thing I’m going to for entertainment is a 1970s-style game show). Granted, I could improve on pretty much every skill that makes someone succeed in basketball, but still – I’m young. In 15 years though, who knows how much Steve Harvey I’ll be watching after working out.
I imagine the Knicks feel that way often. The oldest team in NBA history must be laughing along with the ultimate king of comedy all the time, because right now, this team is falling apart.
Kurt Thomas is down for two to four weeks. Carmelo Anthony is still hobbled from his knee. Tyson Chandler is out for a week with a neck injury. Amar’e Stoudemire is gone for the rest of the regular season. And don’t forget about ‘Sheed, who seems like he hasn’t played since Patrick Ewing was taking the court. It’s been a while for Rasheed Wallace, and the Knicks playing the waiting game is a problem.
Wallace hasn’t played in a game since Dec. 13. In the meantime, the Knicks have been quietly hoping for his return. First, he was only day-to-day. Then it moved to a couple weeks. Then it moved to a couple months. Then it moved to out for potentially the entire season. And with ‘Sheed showing no real signs of coming back, the Knicks continue to harbor him on their roster. Why? And especially, why now?
More than anything else, the Knicks need bodies – big bodies. The injuries that are hurting them are all in the frontcourt. Sure, they have depth, but no club has enough depth to overcome five legitimate injuries to rotation players. It’s just not possible.
‘Sheed played in 20 games after coming out of retirement and signing with the Knicks earlier this year. His team effect was clearly felt on the defensive side of the ball (the Knicks allowed 6.1 points per 100 possessions fewer with him on the court), but even so, is 14 minutes a night of inefficient, volume shooting from a guy who was working his way into shape worth waiting for?
The Knicks knew this might happen. They must have. If my back is glued to a cushion following my basketball games, the oldest team in the history of the NBA has to tire out throughout the course of a season. It’s an inevitability. Pair up guys like Wallace, Marcus Camby, Jason Kidd, and Thomas with a perpetual injury risk like Stoudemire and you know you need a backup plan. The problem is that with Wallace still on the roster, there can’t be one, which is why waiving him and signing someone who can play right now might be the Knicks’ best option.
Even if ‘Sheed were to come back for a playoff series, how much could a 38-year-old, who is coming off an injury and trying to work himself back into basketball shape swing a series while playing 14 minutes a night? Probably not much.
Getting rid of Wallace, whose contract ends after this season, couldn’t even come back to hurt the Knicks in the future. Players who are waived after the Mar. 1 deadline are ineligible to play in the playoffs if they sign with another team.
The Knicks’ frontcourt depth should no longer be about quality, just about the number of bodies. And right now, with five guys at home watching Family Feud instead of out on the court, the only way to bring someone into their already maxed-out roster is, unfortunately, to waive ‘Sheed.