The Celtics are now 80 games into the regular season, and Rasheed Wallace has heard 80 games' worth of criticism throughout his inconsistent season, whether it's the boos he hears after missing a 3-pointer or all the media speculation after an outburst.
Every once in a while, though, Rasheed surprises the critics and turns in a solid performance.
Against Kevin Durant and the Thunder two weeks ago, he went 7-of-8 from the floor and dropped a game-high 18 points off the bench. He then had eleven points and eight rebounds against the Rockets two nights later. Against the Bucks over the weekend, with Kevin Garnett resting a sore ankle, the grizzled 35-year-old Wallace turned in 12 points and seven rebounds.
The playoffs are set to begin in less than a week, and it's time to put Wallace's past trials and tribulations behind us. It's time to forget the regular season that was.
His coach knows what he's been through and understands the journey that's been Wallace's season.
"Up and down," Doc Rivers said last week. "He's had some good games and some bad games. But I think the bottom line is he'll be judged, and our team will be judged, on how well we play in the playoffs. If he has a good playoff run, I don't think anyone's going to say this was the disappointing Rasheed Wallace. If he has a great playoff run, I think people are going to say, 'That's what we brought him here for.'"
This is exactly what the Celtics brought Rasheed Wallace to Boston for. Without a doubt, it's the playoffs that matter most and they'll need to call upon that guy with 15 seasons and 153 career playoff games under his belt.
They'll need his presence defensively against some of the tougher, longer big men in the Eastern Conference such as Jermaine O'Neal, Anderson Varejao and Dwight Howard.
They'll need him crashing the boards and offering veteran leadership in a way they haven't seen from him yet this season.
And when you least expect it, he may even step up and hit a big shot or two.
We all know the ups and downs that Rasheed Wallace has been through. We've witnessed the rocky moments, both on the court and off. We've seen him make lazy plays, take careless shots, and mouth off at inopportune times. But we've also seen brief flashes that remind us he can be an impact player.
Wallace has been around long enough to know that it's the playoffs that really count. No one defines their legacy with a strong couple of games in March. That's not how it works.
In those 153 postseason games, Wallace has piled up 2,237 points, 1,028 rebounds and 255 assists. He's reached the conference finals six times and the NBA Finals twice.
He knows what time it is. He knows that no matter what's happened through these first 80 games, he can make everyone forget everything if he can just string together a strong playoff run.
It's nothing he's never done before. And it's nothing he can't do again.