2013 Report Card: Sheed

0 Rasheed Wallace 2013 NYK 16.7 .484 .465 17.8 1.3 10.1 0.7 1.6 1.8 1.2
0.211 Hakeem Olajuwon 2001 HOU 20.7 .526 .498 16.1 2.9 10.0 1.7 1.6 2.1 1.9
0.287 Kevin Willis 2001 TOT 14.6 .478 .441 14.2 3.5 10.5 1.0 1.1 1.0 1.7
0.305 Patrick Ewing 2001 SEA 12.9 .478 .430 13.0 2.1 10.0 1.6 0.9 1.6 2.6
0.400 Jerome Kersey 2001 MIL 12.9 .473 .464 10.7 1.2 6.7 2.2 2.1 1.2 0.9
0.459 Robert Parish 1992 BOS 18.9 .571 .535 17.6 3.5 11.1 1.1 1.1 1.5 2.1
0.513 Clifford Robinson 2005 TOT 10.3 .471 .450 11.4 1.2 4.5 2.2 1.3 1.1 1.4
0.525 Danny Schayes 1998 ORL 10.9 .479 .418 11.5 2.7 6.8 1.2 1.0 0.9 1.7
0.535 Terry Cummings 2000 GSW 14.0 .474 .429 16.6 4.1 9.7 1.9 1.2 0.7 2.4
0.605 Antoine Carr 2000 VAN 7.5 .477 .438 10.9 1.3 5.2 1.1 0.5 1.0 1.5
0.644 Kurt Thomas 2011 CHI 10.0 .527 .513 6.4 2.3 9.2 1.8 1.0 1.3 1.3
0.660 Sam Perkins 2000 IND 12.1 .555 .518 11.9 1.4 6.4 1.5 0.7 0.7 1.4

There’s a reason kids shouldn’t wake up Christmas morning to a giant Pentagon-issue Abrams tank — brand new and big bow atop the turret — chilling beneath the tree: some things are simply too powerful for children to handle properly. You need that tank to weather and ware, suffer the humblings attendant to time, grind, and grenade blasts to the frame. So that, at some point in your early 30s, after dragging your ragged ass out of bed to accept your yuletide bounty of boxers and shitty socks, your joy at finding that once destructive, now crumblingly curmudgeonly beast might be coupled with the realization that you’re finally ready to play with it, albeit briefly, before it falls apart completely.

This is the best analogy I can conjure for what it was like watching a twilit Rasheed Wallace take one final, goofy-ass spin with my New York Knicks. After two calendar years on the lam, the itch about Sheed’s shit-dishing proboscis – the limb on which he leaned for the better part of two decades – became too much to ignore. Afer signing with the Knicks in late October, Sheed whipped himself quickly into shape (a shape, anyway), earning his first burn at the tail end of New York’s opening night beatdown of the defending champs. We all remember the moment:


In no time, Sheed was logging semi-serious rotation minutes, contributing in all the ways that’d made him the maddeningly gifted, intermittently unstable manchild talent we’d all grown to love: bullying brothers on the block; antagonizing the referees with his patented brand of verbal-psychological voodoo; bellowing “Ball don’t lie!” at every reasonable and unreasonable opportunity; and generally doing everything in his power to limit his movement to half-jogs between three point lines. On a second unit that often struggled for some semblance of offensive continuity, Wallace became something of bulwark against late possession desperation; just dump it down low, join in the din of “SHEEEEEEEEEE….” and hope for the best.

That Knick Knation found itself in the throes of genuine panic at word of his indefinite sidelining – the product of too much weight and too many burns on too-fragile feet that came to a head in an early December romp with the Lakers – told you all you needed to know about just how indispensable Sheed had become. Which was at once thrilling and terrifying; thrilling because he’d summoned far more than anyone had expected; terrifying because this was just another example of your team hitching way too much of its second-unit fortune on an age bracket whose chief concerns amongst the general public tend to pivot on keeping your teenage children out of jail or not pregnant and methods for reducing the risk of hemorrhoids.

Bound to boot for the better part of four months, Sheed returned for one last run in a meaningless April 15th tilt in Charlotte. He played just a shade under four minutes, went one for three from the floor, scored two points, and missed his lone three point attempt before heading to the locker room, hobbling once again. Wallace announced his retirement just days later, bookending a run that was in many ways a microchosm of the mercurial forward’s entire NBA odyssey: Flashes of basketball brilliance interspersed with flails of sheer, weird idiocy and screamingly hilarious antics all deserving of their own, special enshrinement – a one-man museum whose operational hours are midnight to three, and where the architecture is always one slipped beam away from collapsing completely. Just like the man himself.

His playing days now bygone Day-Glo, Sheed has already commenced the next chapter in one of the NBA’s all-time strange trips — as an assistant in Detroit, the organization credited with finally transforming a troubled but borderline-genius into a defensive force, a true teammate, and a champion. The hallmarks of an second NBA life are already there: yelling at refs in the waning moments of a meaningless summer league game; pulling young players aside for stern talkings to; and — my favorite so far — greeting rookie point guard Peyton Siva, walking half-dejected back to the huddle after missing a shot by four miles, with this:

“Nice pass.”

There’s a line from Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, wherein the protagonist conjures something of an in-life eulogy for his attorney and partner in drug-crazed silliness, Dr. Gonzo. It’s a crib that gets bandied about quite a bit, whenever a half-famous, half-exciting celebrity passes on. To my mind, the only person to whom it could ever righteously apply may be Thompson himself. But Sheed ain’t far behind:

“There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

Misfit, prankster, loudmouth, hothead, smartass, shit-talker, clown: Rasheed Wallace arrived league-side steeped in these and too many other tags, and now leaves perhaps the most transcendent totem to each the game has ever seen. But all labels contain degrees, and it’s safe to say that Sheed, more than any other player, mostly managed to find creatively clever ways of straddling right on the razor’s edge, between risky but ultimately socially acceptable theater, and the stuff of tragic sports annals. Where stupider men might’ve spent all good graces, Sheed always kept one back-of-pocket. Where angrier men would’ve been shunned completely, Sheed saved face with whoopee chushions. Where crazier men might’ve burned all available bridges, Sheed — impossible arms their own taut cables — suspended them. Even, somehow, when he was the one being suspended.

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Jim Cavan

Beyond his KnickerBlogger roots, Jim's work has appeared at ESPN.com, Grantland, The Classical, and the New York Times. He is currently working on a biography of Robert Silverman, entitled "Clownin' and Astoundin.'" Follow him on Twitter @JPCavan.

8 thoughts to “2013 Report Card: Sheed”

  1. Fantastic piece, Jim. So, entertaining. Ultimately, Sheed is just really funny and, in his won way, a class act. When he was in trouble in Portland and in negotiations with Detroit in 2004 there was a pipe dream, or at least an article or two, written about him coming here. Lucky for DET he didn’t, maybe lucky for him too, but it’s typical that stuff like that happens ten years too late around here.

    Gosh, other fans of other organizations don’t know how good they have it. Their stars arrive on draft night and mature for them. The best we get is to steal a carpet bagger or two, which costs us all our resources.

    It’s hard to be a NYK fan, but it makes this board fascinating in a sense. I remember, Thomas B talking about how a better Knicks team might make for a more boring KB. Maybe it’s true. Our team is a soap opera. Rasheed Wallace the Knick made for a great episode or two. A bientot Rasheed! Thanks for the couple of memories.

  2. Is this a re-print? I’d hate to think I imagine or dream up basketball website articles.

  3. Thanks, danvt!

    Nick: It was originally posted on Friday, but the site was tweaking out all day and down for good chunks of it, so we decided to re-post it.

    Now with 25% more riboflavin.

  4. 2.0 is just as good as the original.As a bonus now I see the wierdness getting on was not confined to me.

  5. Brian Cronin:
    It is weird that the Sixers don’t have a coach yet, right?

    Their plan is to tank, might as well not even bother hiring a head coach. Let the players coach themselves, guarantee to finish with the worst record in the NBA that way.

  6. I’ve always loved Sheed. Hated his 3’s but I didn’t let it bother me too much because he got busy in the paint on both ends of the floor. Problem is, when he was locked in he was dominant. He was like the brilliant student that sometimes felt school was too easy. Boy, would the season have turned out different had he been able to stay healthy! To me, he was the Method Man of basketball. U know..for a good while Mef wasn’t as consistently prolific as his skill demands him to be. But on guest appearances, he sounded like he could be the GOAT. But once he locked in, I started hearin the Mef I expected. Sheed had the ability to be a young KG with a way more pure post game. He just never really put it all together. And the on court talk? Incredibly effective and entertaining without goin overboard. Dude is unique in the sense that he was a glue guy with the skills to be the best player on his team. I think it’s sad that he’s not part of a staff in Charlotte or Philly. Nevertheless he’ll do we’ll helping coach those 2 bigs in Detroit and I think he can take Josh Smith under his wing. I do wonder how he and Jennings are gonna relate tho.

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