But for all the “ups and downs,” if you’ll allow the euphemism, of Rasheed’s first season in Boston, he knew all along that the regular season would have virtually no impact on his legacy in Boston. Spring is when the real battles are fought, the rings are won and reputations are made.
“No doubt,” coach Doc Rivers said on Sunday after Wallace helped the Celtics win Game 1 over the Magic. “And because of the ups and downs, you absolutely had to remind yourself of that. Because everyone else was reminding me of what he wasn’t doing. The one thing I will say about Rasheed, and he said it throughout, is, ‘It doesn’t matter what I do in the regular season, I’ll be judged on what I do in the playoffs.’
“I didn’t want him to take that literally,” Rivers went on. “I mean, he did throughout the season. But [in the playoffs], he’s been terrific. He’s a knowledgeable big who has a lot of games. I thought today defensively, he did some old tricks that were just terrific.”
The past is the past, and we can’t change it. The reality is that Wallace put forth a lackadaisical, frustrating effort during the regular season, and it’s too late for excuses. The 35-year-old spent five months jogging back and forth from 3-point line to 3-point line, jacking up shots without a second thought about defense or rebounding. Few human beings have ever made an easier $5.8 million.
But he knew all along that the playoffs would be all that really counted. Shoot, all the Celtics knew that. It’s common sense — as long as you win a ring, nothing else matters. That’s the principle that guided the Celtics through the final 54 games of their season, in which they played .500 basketball and backed into these Eastern Conference playoffs.
But now, Rasheed’s got to earn his paycheck.
This is the right series for it. This isn’t like round one, when the Celtics’ primary foe was Dwyane Wade, or round two, when it was LeBron James — against the defending East champion Magic, the main order of business is containing Dwight Howard.
You can’t do that with just one big man, no matter how good he is. Kendrick Perkins has size and strength, and Glen Davis has energy on the boards. But it’s got to be a massive tag-team against Superman — the more bodies you can throw at him, and more importantly the more fouls you can use on him, the better. Having Rasheed as a veteran big man in the rotation will be a huge help in this series. The Celtics might benefit from his (gasp!) leadership.
His Game 1 effort was a solid one. You could tell he wasn’t about to back down from Howard.
“Kendrick, Rasheed and [Davis], I thought all three of them were good,” Rivers said. “You know, with Dwight Howard, it’s not going to be one, two, three, maybe even four guys at the end of the day that have to guard him. And we are leaving them on an island, so that’s very difficult.”
To stop Dwight Howard, you have to buy into the team concept. No one can do it alone.
“They hurt you so well with their passing,” Rivers said of the Magic. “And so when you have enough bigs that can try to just stay in there and take the pounding, it’s a good thing. And all of them are great. Rasheed was phenomenal defensively tonight, and he’s been good in the playoffs for us. That’s what we wanted when we signed him.”
And if it keeps working, it’ll be all anyone remembers.