Posted by Romy Nehme
Cultural latency is certainly working in the Knicks’ favor these days. Front office calamities, not to mention the recent departure of the one person who was unanimously respected in the business, get spit out of the media vortex almost as quickly as they are sucked into it. But it seems as though the Knicks organization — at a time when the borough next door is getting ready for the grand opening of its brand sparkling new rust-adorned stadium, which will mark the beginning of a significant honeymoon period — is hellbent on reminding its fans that only a malicious person would commit such audacious blunders while also claiming to do “what’s best for the franchise”. Outside of the cumulative damage that Dolan has exerted on fans’ psyches, his most perverse fascination, the one that has him curiously revisiting the Isaiah Thomas well of ingenious-ways-to-destroy-a-basketball-team, is one of the most bizarre wrecklamation projects we’ve seen in the NBA (where perpetually recycled incompetency is the norm).
The most recent startling headline is that the Knicks might cut Kurt Thomas to free up a roster spot for Rasheed Wallace . Kurt Thomas, the consummate professional! Kurt Thomas, who can still do what he does best while carrying a few extra slabs of skin on his body! Kurt Thomas, who gave the Knicks seven good years of his life and all with his unflinching murderous gaze! That is more incredible news than you would think; Sheed had to both woo a team and pass a physical, which, given the the state in which we last saw him hobbling off the parquet and trying to sneak into the referees’ locker room in 2010, was not a mere formality.
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Soon after Lin had been discarded by the Knicks, a couple of friends and I tinkered with the idea of launching a Kickstarter campaign. If successful, we would erect a physical installation — preferably outside of Dolan’s office — to memorialize the I Am Linsane collective and thousands of other fans’ all-time high contempt for the owner. This installation might or might not be a post-modern cross between Gilbert and George’s "White Bastards" and "Spit on Shit", but I digress as its artistic merits are ancillary to its purpose. Dolan probably wouldn’t have appreciated the British humor, and well, Gilbert and George wouldn’t endorse their work being co-opted by sports. Of course, my dream of using crowdfunding measures to assert fans’ ability to rise up when collectively screwed over by a megalomaniac owner dissipated as every new acquisition cemented the Knicks’ roster as a farcical and disparate collection of have-beens with seemingly no higher organizing principle. As a fan beholden to a team, there’s not much you can do other than seethe, or, switch allegiances, as Mark Lisanti eloquently put it a few months back as he offered a limited offer rescind-your-fandom-contract card: To be redeemed only in situations of extreme emotional distress.
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Prior to Rasheed joining the Celtics, my mom knew him only as the missing piece of the Detroit championship team puzzle whose trade to the Pistons Ainge had facilitated with the acquisition of the venerable Chucky Atkins in 2004. She, like most fans, had a weak spot for Sheed’s Charisma. During that entire Christmas season, my mom, also known as “hood mamma” in our quarters (she’s a 4’ something” Middle Easterner but has a shake ‘n bake swagger to her step), was prone to trot out of the kitchen imitating Sheed’s exaggerated bopping of the head and soulful snapping of the fingers. For years, all of our Christmas cards in one way or another played off that Sheed “Jingle Bells” video. It was the easiest and surest way to guarantee a hearty cackle out of her.
Come 2010, it was with mixed emotions that “hood mamma” embraced the idea that Sheed would don green when he was signed to help shore up the Celtics’ perpetually weak frontcourt. She had slowly come around to the opinion that if he only showed up to training camp in decent shape, he could be an important cog in the Celtics’ quest to reclaim dominance after sputtering the previous postseason under the weight of KG’s injury.
Then we got a glimpse of what he had been up to that summer. The weirdest thing is that NO ONE TALKED ABOUT IT. It was as though the Fat Persons lobby had infiltrated the NBA media circle and strictly forbade all its members from outing Sheed for the lamentable physical shape he’d showed up in. Finally one day, the cat was out of the hat: Ric Bucher played the role of the whistle-blower by outing Rasheed Wallace as “the only major athlete I’ve ever seen with a flat tire” (clearly forgetting that the likes of Oliver Miller had already graced the league with their larger-than-thou presence).
Things only got worse from there. My mom would start wailing hysterically at the TV set during games as though little men were actually playing behind the screen and could hear her reprieves, alternating between hurling obscenities and pleas of desperation. Bill Simmons created a new statistical category that the advanced metrics community never adopted because of its small sample size:
Sheed likes jogging at half-speed. He submits entire sequences — two or three minutes at a time, six or seven trips up and down the court — without ever passing either foul line. Sometimes I count to see how many consecutive possessions Sheed can pull off without crossing either charity stripe. His unofficial record is nine.
Looking back at it now, Rasheed Wallace was the shortest burst of hope (not thwarted by death) that humanity had ever experienced. He did his best Antoine Walker impression by jacking up more threes than he grabbed rebounds. By the time we had all been driven to a catatonic state of mercy, he played himself into baseball shape, and when the playoffs rolled around, he lifted our hopes by having old Sheed make a cameo, a rousing performance deserving of referring to yourself in the third person. There was even that one magical moment still frozen in time where Sheed scoffed at Gasol’s fakes and met him at the apex of his right handed hook shot with the force of a Destinee Hooker rejection. But alas, it was not meant to be; With one fell swoop of his soft core, the clock struck midnight, Sheed strained his back and in the process dashed our hope. His infectious smile’s stock dropped like a boyfriend’s jokes that once turned your nose into a milk sprinkler but now induced exaggerated public eye-rolling. As the painfully telegraphed decisive last few minutes of Game 7 wore on, you just knew in your gut that all those midnight runs to Burger King were coming back to haunt him with Judgment Day vindication. As an anvil. In the shape of a giant whopper, poised to descend from the rafters to put an end to all this ignominy .
But that was two years ago when Sheed had a big angry Texan’s shoes to fill (Perk was sidelined with an injury for the last 1.75 games of the finals). Don’t you worry, Knicks fans. Sheed’s minutes will most likely be negligible and so will be the effects of his road kill’s level of activity. After all, how pronounced can the agony of yet another decaying body on a roster possibly be ?
The bottom line is this: Sheed killed Christmas and broke my mom’s heart. He’ll break yours too if you’re not careful.
: Update, the Knicks will have the max training camp roster of 20, with 14 guaranteed deals
: Sure, youth was not one of the Celtics team’s fortes (contributing to that 4th quarter collapse), but age is not something you can change. A muffin top, is.
: Isn’t there a Law of Diminishing Marginal Hindrance that explains this phenomenon?
ALI’S 2 CENTS -
Ok so I’ve been super crazy at work and when you sent this to me my initial reaction was “Wait, didn’t he retire?” My second reaction was “Oh I kinda like Rasheed Wallace… you know, for his smooth Jingle Bell Rap”.
A few days later, with things finally starting to settle down, I read this news with mixed emotions. Are the Knicks purposely collecting the oldest bench imaginable in an effort to get a senior’s discount on the cap space or something? Kidd, Thomas, Camby and Wallace were all solid, some of them great, players in their 90s prime. They’re all serviceable players now (well the verdict is still out on Wallace since he’s coming out of a TWO YEAR RETIREMENT)… but an NBA Championship team? I mean, I’m 30 and I’m already noticing my speed slip in rec games against the youngins’. Am I really supposed to believe that a team featuring a rotating supporting cast of above 38-year-old players is going to contend with a younger team like Miami or OKC in a 7 game series?
And yet, there’s something intriguing about Rasheed Wallace and his potential signing with the Knicks. Despite what everyone said about him while he was on the Celtics, I remember being some whatimpressed with his presence on the floor. Ok, maybe it was mainly because he feigned disgusted surprise every time he legitimately fouled someone, but that still counts right? I mean, there was also something about the way he played for Boston during that run. You just felt like if this was his last season in the NBA, he was going to do it on a high. So in every game you could feel his presence, even if he was only dragging his feet 3 feet behind the halfcourt line.
So what if Rasheed Wallace does the unthinkable and shows up to training camp in the best shape his body could be in for a 38-year-old coming out of retirement? What if this AARP Band of Brothers outperforms everything we as fans expect? With a collective 60+ years of NBA experience from just those four guys — Kidd, Thomas, Camby, and Wallace — the Knicks have Founding Fathers-like experience at their disposal to help guide Carmelo & Co. to a strong season. I mean, one could hope at least.
I would like to believe that there is potential for this team to make it to the playoffs and win a series, but my faith lies somewhere between “Meh, maybe next year” and “Is it too late to change allegiances?”. If nothing else, I guess I should be glad that the Knicks are looking out for their elders by providing a nice nursing home for players past their prime. You think Ewing will make a comeback?