Rasheed's Legacy

Having watched the Eastern Conference Finals this year, even in a somewhat cursory manner, I couldn’t help but come away with a thought:  Boy, the Pistons sure could have used Rasheed Wallace this year.

“But wait,” you say, “’Sheed is still on their team!”

I know.

Watching Rasheed’s career wind down, seeing him limp into the sunset more than ride gloriously, knowing what kind of player he was in his Portland days and how close we were to maybe doing something special, you can’t help but wonder what could have been.  You also wonder what Rasheed’s legacy will ultimately be as a Blazer and in the league overall.

Though he never averaged 20 points at any time in his career, ‘Sheed played some amazing ball for a handful of years with the Blazers.  That late-90’s team had so many big names on it that it’s easy to overlook the fact that he was the straw that stirred the drink.  Rasheed’s tantrums and drama obscured some of the most bankable playoff performances this franchise has known.  Whatever else you think of him, the guy could play.  He was had one of the best all-around games of anybody who has put on our uniform.

Rasheed’s desire to get out of town and his willingness to provide bulletin board material for Portland fans made trading him a much easier decision than it probably should have been.  The guy had scored 19, 19, and 18 the past three seasons.  He defended well, rebounded some, and shot a reasonable percentage…stellar earlier in his tenure when he was an inside player, passable as he began to drift towards the perimeter.  Other than perhaps Clyde Drexler, the Blazers have likely not traded another player with a better game at the time of the trade. 

Detroit’s championships cemented Rasheed’s legacy and confirmed his talent, but statistically speaking there’s little doubt the Blazers got out at the right time.  He never averaged more than 16 points again.  At first that was teamwork.  The last couple of years the Pistons have needed him desperately, however, and he’s not produced even 13 points per game.  His shooting percentage has gone into the sewer (42% last year, 43% this year...painful when you look at his early years well above 50%).  He’s not the defender he used to be either.  Saying he’s a shadow of his old self is going too far, but he’s hardly the guy who propelled us into the deep rounds of the playoffs.  He used to be his team's life raft.  Now it’s all he can do to swim.

This is not to count Rasheed out entirely.  He’s 33 years old and next year is a contract year for him.  I would not be surprised if he had one more spark left in him.  I’m not hopeful about the next contract he signs, however.  It will almost certainly be both his last and his least productive.

Looking at all of this you wonder…did it have to happen this way?  Could Rasheed have remained a Blazer, for one thing?  What would it have looked like?  And what will his final legacy be in this league?  He did a fair amount, but it’s hard to believe that he truly reached his outer limit of success.  Perhaps most importantly of all for some team, does he have anything significant left to give or was this for all practical purposes his last hurrah?

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

P.S.  You can also read Zuul's diary to the right for more thoughts on this subject.

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