If Thursday night ends up being the last game Rasheed Wallace plays in his NBA career, it will be somehow fitting.
Not long after the Lakers started celebrating their Game 7 win, the rumors that Rasheed Wallace might retire were started by none other than Doc Rivers. “I don’t know if Rasheed will ever play again," Doc said. "I think he took that out on the floor with him. I think he is thinking about retiring.”
Taking over part of the workload of downed starter Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace played through 36 minutes of cramp-induced pain, scoring eleven points and pulling down eight rebounds when rebounding was hard to find. For a player who spent much of the season reassuring fans that his contribution would come in May and June, it was a fitting punctuation mark on an excellent postseason, even if it came in the most depressing of circumstances.
Wallace had been playing much of the season through injury, with Doc often citing his bad back as a major limiting factor in playing time. In Game 7, he was noticeably in pain at times, limping up the court after making a key defensive play or trying to back his way into the paint. But he gave his full effort, and performed in spite of it all.
Rasheed’s career has been marked by difficulties with the referees. One of the most technical-prone players in the game, it often seemed as though Rasheed had a point after seeing some of his most impressive defensive plays whistled for fouls. Whether Rasheed’s attitude caused the target on his back or vice versa is a question for the ages. After the game, Rasheed went to the officials’ locker room and asked to talk to referee Danny Crawford. We may never know what he was going to say had he managed to see Crawford, but I hope he gets to have that conversation someday.
Sheed left the building wearing sunglasses, still in full uniform. If that is the last time he is seen in an NBA uniform, it will be the end of a long and successful career that included bringing one team to a championship, and another within a few minutes. Hopefully he is remembered more for his contributions than his complaints. Because in the end he talked a big game, and delivered when it counted, even if it wasn’t enough.