Incredible as it seemed as recently as November, the Knicks miss Rasheed Wallace, who’d been retired for two previous seasons, and seemed likely to be the final man off the bench in blowouts than an important part of the team’s rotation.
That made the reports that Wallace, suffering from a stress reaction in his foot, could miss the rest of the season awfully disconcerting.
Breaking down his skills, though, the Knicks would appear to have some answers for replicating his value.
They’re probably upgrading, frankly, the offensive portion of Wallace’s game with the return of Amar’e Stoudemire. Consider that while Stoudemire hasn’t yet looked like the player he was in past seasons, he’s still shooting 44.2 percent in the limited action he’s had. Wallace managed to shoot 38.8 percent overall, and 32.4 percent from three, taking a huge number of low-percentage shots in the process. If still-recovering Stoudemire is a more efficient offensive player than Wallace now, it seems reasonable that gap will only grow as Stoudemire further recovers. (A physical setback to Stoudemire is the potential problem here.)
Defensively, though, Wallace occupied the space the Knicks expected would be filled by Marcus Camby. And Camby, last week, re-injured his foot, knocking him out for another 2-4 weeks. Ultimately, a healthy Camby is probably a better defender, and clearly a better rebounder, than Wallace. The Knicks don’t have that yet, however.
What made Wallace valuable was his combination of these two skill sets in a single player. If Mike Woodson is right, and the Knicks can get Wallace back, it would be a huge boon to the team, either in terms of a rotation player, or one who can step in for Stoudemire or Camby in the event either is injured or in foul trouble.
That Wallace matters to this extent is both fascinating and frightening.