When Rasheed Wallace signed with the Celtics in July, he was hailed as the potential missing link, the player to turn the Big Three into the Fantastic Four, the guy who could potentially help bring title No. 18 to Boston. These days, he's just struggling to get on the score sheet.
After going just 4-of-16 from the field and 0-for-8 from 3-point range in the Celtics' loss to the Magic on Friday and averaging career lows so far in scoring, rebounding and shooting percentage, is it fair to call Sheed a "bust," as Bill Doyle of the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette did on Sunday?
Well, Wallace's 0-for-6 performance from the field for zero points — while earning his fifth technical foul of the season — in Sunday's narrow win over the Knicks doesn't exactly hurt the prosecution's case.
Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe took it a step further, suggesting after the game that Sheed's "slump is definitely in his head. … But we are definitely seeing the Rasheed of his later years in Detroit, when he turned into an ineffective distraction."
But Celtics coach Doc Rivers doesn't seem that worried about the lack of productivity out of his team's $19 million (over three seasons) investment.
"Obviously I would like more out of everyone, but we'll get more out of Rasheed," he told the Telegram & Gazette. "I'm not that concerned about Rasheed at all, honestly. I think as the year goes on, he'll keep getting in better shape, he'll keep figuring out his spots for us offensively and defensively."
Given that the 35-year-old Wallace is coming exclusively off the bench for the first time in his 15-year career, you'd expect a dip in his scoring and rebounding totals. But it's his shooting that has seen the most precipitous falloff.
The 6-foot-11 forward has struggled mightily with his shooting touch this fall, hitting a career low 36.7 percent from the field. After his second straight ohfer from beyond the arc on Sunday (0-for-3), his 3-point percentage is at a suspect 27.2. In his last nine games, Wallace is 7-for 48 from downtown, just 14.6 percent.
"It's just not going for me," Wallace said. "[But] I'm not worried about my offense now. It's still early in the season. I know I won't be shooting like this for the duration of the season."
Rivers also cited Wallace's age and relative fitness as a bit of a concern. "At 35," Doyle wrote, "Wallace admits he can't jump anymore and he's not as fast as he used to be. He tries to survive by being more of a heady player."
So does becoming "a heady player" mean that he's no longer willing or able to go down in the lane, post up opposing big men and bang bodies with the other tall trees?
That seems to be the case. For a man who's 6-foot-11, Sheed spends a surprisingly high percentage of his playing time on the perimeter and astoundingly has only 11 offensive rebounds all season.
In fact, he got called out by Rivers after the C's win over Golden State on Wednesday for being too quick to resort to the 3-point ball.
"I got on him, and I rarely do, about the 3s," Rivers told The Globe, "because even though he was wide open … we had just taken two quick ones."
To be fair, over the last nine full seasons, Wallace has taken an average of 293 3-pointers, so hoisting up the treys has been a big part of his game. But over that period, he hit on 34.8 percent of his bombs, and if he were connecting at that rate, it's less likely that Rivers would have a problem with it.
It's clear that the Wallace the Celtics have gotten this season hasn't been the same Wallace we've seen over the first 15 years of his career. But then again, Sheed wasn't brought in to be the same player he's been for the last 15 years.
Wallace hasn't been on a team before with three players of the caliber of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. He no longer needs to be "the man." Furthermore, we've heard nothing to suggest he's uncomfortable coming off the bench, even though he's averaging a career-low of under 22 minutes played per game.
On the bright side, however, the Celtics are still 10-4. No, they're not exactly on pace to best the Bulls' 72-10 mark that Wallace suggested the C's could challenge. But they're already on top of the Atlantic Division by four games and appear to be in line for at least a top-three seed in the playoffs.
Wallace has not been playing his best basketball, but the Celtics are having a pretty good amount of success despite that. If Sheed is able to get back on track as the season goes on, perhaps bringing an 18th title to the Hub won't seem that unrealistic after all.
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