Here are the facts: Through eight games with the Celtics this season, Wallace is averaging 10.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. The rebounds and assists are career lows for the 35-year-old forward. The scoring is at its lowest since the 1995-96 season, when Wallace was a 21-year-old rookie with the Washington Bullets. Even his blocks are falling off the map — with four on the season, he's below one per game for the first time since his rookie year.
And yet the Celtics are 7-1 with Sheed as their sixth man. And that's a stat you can take to the bank.
Wallace's statistical drop-off is not an indication of his deteriorating skills. Far from it. In fact, it's a sign that he's matured and learned to fit into a winning system in Boston.
At 35, the Celtics' forward has acknowledged that he's not going to be the center of attention anymore. He's not going to be scoring the crunch-time buckets, he's not going to be carrying the C's in big games, and he probably won't make many headlines at all this season, save for the occasional controversy over a technical foul. He just wants to help the team win.
That's what he said when he first got here.
"If Doc wants me to come off the bench, then that?s fine, I?ll come off the bench," Wallace said at his first news conference in Boston. "As long as I?m contributing to the team for the W. My thing is, bottom line is to win games. I think with the mindset of these guys here, we?ll win a lot of ballgames."
He's contributed in a lot of ways, but not exactly as expected. When the 6-foot-10 big man first arrived in Boston, we all thought he was another center in town, a man competing with Kendrick Perkins for crunch-time minutes. But that's not how Wallace turned out. He's been an offensive perimeter man, a defensive chameleon and an all-around jack-of-all-trades as a forward. He's making his presence known all over the floor.
While surrounded by superstar teammates, he's finding himself open for jump shots more than ever before. He's attempted 10.3 three-pointers per 36 minutes, a career high by far. He's not a center anymore — he's a spot-up shooter.
What Wallace has done represents a dramatic plot twist in the storyline of his career — he's changed his game dramatically to fit the Celtics' needs. He's putting the team first, and it just might pay off. Not an easy shift to pull off at 35. But for Wallace, it makes sense.
"I've already accepted that I can't jump no more," he told The Boston Globe on Monday. "I'm not as fast as I used to be. I accepted that already. That's where you become more smart, make that first step or two before that first player could get there. Or I got to make this jump shot; give him a little pump fake because he can jump higher than me. So to me, once you lose that step or two, that's when you pick up a step or two with your head."
Even in his mid-thirties, Sheed is still learning. He's got a championship ring, he's got four All-Star selections, he's got over 15,000 points scored and $140 million in paychecks. But he's still got a desire to get better. And in Boston, the way you improve is by helping the team improve. For the Celtics, he's certainly done that.