By the time Rasheed Wallace was traded to Atlanta midway through last season, he had more than worn out his welcome here. Wallace’s off-court behavior was often an embarrassment, from threatening a referee on the Rose Garden loading dock to being cited for marijuana possession.
And on-court he was often worse. Wallace twice set a league-record for technical fouls in a season. He infamously threw a towel at one of his teammates, Arvydas Sabonis. And despite being arguably as talented as any power forward in the NBA, countless times Wallace refused to lead his team at the ends of games by acting as the go-to scorer.
But watching Rasheed Wallace go to the NBA finals for a second straight year as a member of the Detroit Pistons, one has to admit that for all his downsides, he remains a very special player.
Wallace is a top-notch defender, and I would not be surprised one bit if he shuts down the Spurs’ Tim Duncan for large stretches of the Finals (he's done it before). He also has exceptional shooting range for a 6’10” player. Wallace routinely hits 3-point shots and his turn-around jumper from the baseline can be impossible to stop. And while Blazer fans know all too well that Wallace’s temper has gotten him into a lot of trouble over the years, it also means that he plays with a matchless competitive fire.
I’ve been fascinated by Wallace, both the player and the man, ever since he emerged as a star in college at North Carolina, where as a sophomore he and teammate Jerry Stackhouse led the Tar Heels to the 1994 Final Four. I was ecstatic when the Blazers traded for him from Washington. And while I was just as frustrated by his behavior as a lot of other Portlanders while Wallace wore red, white and black, seeing him succeed elsewhere is bittersweet. Beyond the on and off-court issues, Rasheed is also such a theatrical personality. In a movie he'd be described as "the good-looking rebel who plays by his own rules".
The scars of Wallace's years in Portland still need many more years to heal, but I hope there will come a day in the future when his time as a Blazer is remembered for the good as much as the bad. Wallace was the star of a Portland team that made it to the Western Conference Finals two years in a row, and he routinely stood toe to toe with the likes of Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnet, and any of the league’s best power forwards.
I don’t blame the Trail Blazers one bit for trading him last year. It was inevitable and desperately needed for both sides. But in the long run I think Wallace should rank with Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas, Clyde Drexler, Geoff Petrie, Jerome Kersey, and Terry Porter as one of the best to ever wear a Blazer uniform.