Wallace is hurting, and the Celtics are hurting for a replacement for him. The Celtics, the deepest and arguably best team in the NBA, have been forced to start Brian Scalabrine at power forward this week. The results haven't been too good.
We've seen what happens when Scal is given free reign to play his own game — he gets a little overzealous. He tries to make too many plays, he puts up too many shots. He's the kind of player that's best kept on a short leash.
If you'd suggested back in October that by mid-January, the Celtics would have Scalabrine in their starting five, you'd have gotten a few laughs. But with the perfect storm of injuries hitting the Celtics' forwards — Kevin Garnett out, Marquis Daniels out and now Sheed out — Scal's getting his chance.
This shouldn't be Scal's time. This should be the week of Rasheed Wallace, with KG on the shelf with a hyperextended knee, this should be Sheed's chance to jump into the starting lineup, pick up some extra minutes, and prove that he's capable of buying into the Celtics' team concept. Moving without the ball, making efficient passes, establishing his presence as a team defender — these are the steps that Sheed needs to take to become a true Celtic. And with Garnett out of the picture, this should be Sheed's chance to shine. But it's not.
These games in January may not count for much, but it is important that Wallace and the Celtics learn to work together as one. It's a difficult learning process, especially with an older player like Wallace who's mostly set in his ways. Being without the 35-year-old veteran at this point in the season is hurting the Celtics' growth as a team. Coupling Sheed's injury with the continued lack of KG and Daniels, things are looking grim.
"We’ve had a lot of things thrown at us over this short stretch with the injuries and illnesses," coach Doc Rivers told the Boston Herald this week. "It’s the size guys especially, like [Glen Davis] and Kevin. Even the three, four and five — those are the positions that really concern you at times."
The Celtics have plenty of cause for concern. Losing a game or two in January isn't hurting the Celtics' playoff chances directly, but it's hindering their growth as a basketball team. How are they supposed to win in June if they don't get the bonding experience in January?
With Garnett, the Celtics are being cautious. And that's OK — they can afford to leave KG on the shelf because he'll be ready for the playoffs, and that's what counts. They know what they're getting with KG. He won them a championship in 2008, and he'll be that same player again in 2010.
It makes sense to ease Garnett back slowly. He's not seriously hurt — it's a minor aggravation of a previous knee injury that came about when he was kicked in his surgically repaired leg on Dec. 28 against the Warriors. He's ready to take the floor when desperately needed, but the C's aren't rushing it.
With Wallace, it's different. The Celtics need Wallace back because he needs to adjust to being a part of the Celtics' system. He's not there yet, and he needs this time to figure things out.
He'll be back soon enough. Reports have indicated, in fact, that Wallace could be on the floor Monday night when the Mavericks visit the TD Garden.
If that's the case, it's not a moment too soon. Rasheed Wallace needs to be back on the floor as soon as possible — for his own good, and for the good of the team.