GREENBURGH, NY — After two seasons away from the NBA, Rasheed Wallace is back.
The Knicks announced Wednesday afternoon that they have signed Wallace to a contract. Wallace was in the gym Wednesday and got some shots up, but he did not participate in practice.
That will happen soon, but we don’t know how long Wallace will last. Knicks coach Mike Woodson made it very clear that Wallace is trying out for the team over the next few weeks and not guaranteed a spot on the roster when the Knicks open the season in Brooklyn on Nov. 1.
“Only time will tell,” Woodson said. “This is not something that’s definite. It’s an opportunity to look at him and see what he has left. And if he has something left, I think it can be a positive for our ball club.”
The opportunity is definitely there, though. Wallace is the 20th player in camp, but only 13 of the other 19 Knicks have guaranteed contracts. Come Oct. 30, the Knicks can carry as many as 15.
Sheed made it clear that he’s all in. The idea of a comeback was initially Woodson’s idea and was presented on a phone call early in the summer. But as the season drew nearer, Wallace knew that he had to make a commitment.
“I gave it an honest try, I’d say, probably about late August,” Wallace said. “And I said to myself, ‘Well, if I do do this, then I can’t go in half-stepping or slouching. I have to go ahead and give it 100 percent. I have to give it an honest try. I have to be true to myself.'”
So here he is.
Wallace last played in 2010, when he appeared in 103 of a possible 106 games for the Celtics, who reached Game 7 of The Finals against the Lakers. He hit a huge shot at the end of that game, but shot just 41 percent from the field and 29 percent from 3-point range over those 103 games.
For Woodson, the (possible) addition is more about the other end of the floor.
“If he has it, it starts on the defensive end,” Woodson said. “He’s a presence defensively, in terms of blocking shots, in terms of getting other guys, his teammates, in position when there’s a breakdown defensively. And if he’s got anything left offensively, he can make a shot.”
Wallace explained that he wouldn’t be doing this for just any coach. He and Woodson have a strong relationship from their days in Detroit, when Woodson was an assistant under Larry Brown. In fact, Wallace said that the only other coach he’d come back to play for was Brown.
“He makes it easy for me to come back,” Wallace said of Woodson. “We have a good history, coming from Detroit together. He asked me do I still want to play? I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll come up there and see what I can do for you.'”
Wallace had a pretty big role with the Celtics in ’09-10, averaging almost 23 minutes per game and starting Game 7 after Kendrick Perkins blew out his knee. But he knows his role is likely to be pretty small with the Knicks.
“I’m not expecting to come in here to average 25 points,” he said. “I’m not expecting to come in here to average 35, 40 minutes. Wherever coach needs me at. If it’s two minutes, then I’m out there for two minutes going hard.
“I’m not one to complain. I know I’m not the No. 1 guy here, and I’m willing to accept my role. With me being a veteran player, I know what my role would be.”
The Knicks have four weeks and six exhibition games to evaluate Wallace, who at best, is the fourth big on the roster behind Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Marcus Camby. Of course, the Knicks’ priorities lie with putting together an offense that allows Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony to be efficiently productive at the same time.
Still, it will be fascinating to see if Wallace can earn a spot on the roster.
“For me, it’s great to give him a shot, because I remember the good times,” Woodson said. “I don’t know if he still has it yet until he gets out here and starts working and playing, but only time will tell. That’s why we’re using camp to evaluate guys, and he’s one of those players.”