SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Monday, June 14, 2004

Image Isn't Everything

His image, was, well, bad. They said all sorts of things about him. That he was immature. That he was temperamental. That he could act like a jerk, was hard to coach, was a bad guy. And the facts supported some of the comments. After all, he didn't just lead the league in technical fouls, he dominated. Lapped the field. Several times. No, we're not talking Charles Barkley or Ron Artest here. We're talking Rasheed Wallace.

When he was traded to Portland, the proverbial "they" said he'd be a perfect fit with the other malcontents, ne'er-do-wells and miscreants. Why not add yet another oddball to Paul Allen's curious collection of dysfunctional basketball players? Yes, that's what they said.

But who were "they", really? Because the image belied the overall truth. The truth was, and has always been, that Rasheed Wallace is a great teammate, good in the locker room. The truth is that he has multiple skills and that he has frustrated his coaches sometimes because he has not been more selfish, more dominant. Yes, he had a major problem with officials several years back, but that seems under control now. And because it's under control, we now see his savvy, his outstanding ability to do what it takes to help his team win.

Last night's line tells it all: 41 minutes, 26 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks and 2 turnovers. A great night's work for a big man who makes those around him better and who doesn't need the ball to be effective. And who can deliver when you give him the rock in crunch time.

And, guess what, he's an unrestricted free agent after the season is over.

A 6'11", shot-blocking, 3-point shooting, defending, passing, quick free agent -- with a championship ring, in all likelihood, in tow.

Not a bad image to present to any team desperate for frontcourt help, is it?