Though it’s well noted Rasheed Wallace has joined the Knicks on a non-guaranteed contract, Coach Mike Woodson and company obviously talk about him with the thought in mind that he’ll be around the team for the duration of the season.
Wallace has been mentioned as an insurance policy of sorts as New York gears up for a playoff run later in the year. With it unknown how much (or how little) the forward is capable of contributing, it’s probably best for the coaching staff to keep their expectations for him at bay (which they clearly have).
But when looking at the Knicks’ roster, it’s easy to see where Wallace fits in. Aside from the obvious (his older age matches the personnel of the overall group), the 38 year old can potentially fill a necessary void on the bench.
When acquiring Wallace, New York was in search of a backup power forward for Amar’e Stoudemire. While the mentality surrounding Wallace’s presence in the Big Apple has been described as a “just in case” scenario, the big man could end up seeing decent minutes the season. The Knicks may need them from him.
It all depends on the different match-ups with opponents. As Seth from P&T has noted throughout the week, the Knicks have played small-ball when it comes to forming different lineups for scrimmages. Of course, practice is practice and it’s perhaps a more informal version of competition. The team wants to see what the non-guarantees have to offer, and other more notable players are sitting out as they cautiously monitor early soreness and other injuries.
But what New York’s situation boils down to is this: they don’t have many “big men” off the bench. Aside from Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas, Steve Novak would be the next guy in.
Novak has reportedly been playing power forward in practice, a slot he filled in lineups throughout last season. But the Marquette alum, who acknowledged at media day last week that it will ultimately be his defense that keeps him on the court, is not the type to bark back at opponents and endure bumps and bruises.
It remains to be seen how much we’ll see Kurt Thomas contribute, though he’s proven over the past two seasons in Portland and and Chicago that he can hold his own as a reserve. Should Camby be sidelined with an injury (like he is now) over the course of the season, it’ll be interesting to see who the Knicks opt to go with to eat up some minutes off the pine.
It could be Wallace, in which case he really needs to stay ready. Labeling him as “insurance,” with such a seasoned roster, is going to get old rather quickly (no pun intended). If the Knicks ultimately opt to award him a roster spot over promising young talent like Chris Copeland, John Shurma, and Mychel Thompson, Wallace will have to prove his worth from day one.
He may not be needed in the opening minutes of opening night, but an injury or two could land Wallace on the hardwood relatively quickly. It’s important he is able to bring that same intensity (if not same abilities) to the floor that he’s been known for throughout his career. The Knicks need to be able to not a miss a beat for 48 minutes per game each and every night if they plan on making a serious run. Solid depth and talented reserves go a long way towards helping them do that.