NBA PM: Can Rasheed Wallace Help New York?
One of the more surprising names to surface in the final days of NBA free agency is that of Rasheed Wallace, who retired from the league after spending the 2009-10 season with the Boston Celtics. In recent days the rumor mill has had Wallace and the Knicks involved in talks about potentially joining the team this season, and now it sounds like that’s going to happen.
According to myriad reports out of New York, Wallace has taken his physical and the deal is all but done.
There are a couple of questions that still need to be answered, however, assuming that all the paperwork clears and Wallace joins the Knicks for training camp. First of all, as things stand today, Wallace would be the 20th player under contract heading into training camp. Can the Knicks realistically carve out a spot for Wallace?
Second, and more importantly, if they do give up someone younger and potentially more productive, can Wallace justify that move?
When we last saw Wallace he was wearing the Boston green and looked like a player who was ready to retire. He had the worst year of his career in 2009-10, appearing in 79 games, starting 13, but averaging just nine points per game. He shot a career-worst 40 percent from the field and his 28 percent three-point accuracy was his worst since his third year in the league.
By the time the playoffs rolled around, the writing appeared to be on the wall for Wallace, who averaged just 6.1 points in 24 games, shooting 41 percent in the process.
It might not be fair to say that Wallace stayed a year too long; after all, he did contribute to an NBA Finals team that season, but when he announced his retirement it did appear that he had left it all on the court.
The New York Knicks are already considerably older than last season, with Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby and Jason Kidd in the mix. Adding Wallace, who would be useful for little more than spot minutes, to a front court that’s already loaded with older players is a curious move. Wallace has never been known for his veteran leadership, but the Knicks really don’t need that, either; with Chandler, Kidd, Thomas and Camby in the locker room they have leadership to spare.
It will be interesting to see if Wallace can make the team, and if he does, what kind of contribution he will bring.
Jameer Nelson Prepared For Magic Challenge
For years now Jameer Nelson has been the mother of the Orlando Magic locker room. He’s the one who takes in the rookies, makes sure everyone has somewhere to go around the holidays, and gets guys together during the offseason to build chemistry. This year, with so many players being shipped out as part of the Dwight Howard trade, Nelson found his normal offseason routine to be quite a challenge.
“Yeah, guys getting traded and moved around and all that stuff, it was a tough year for that, in terms of me trying to coordinate with guys and stuff,” Nelson told WYGM in Orlando. “But we’ve been working out together the last few weeks, playing five-on-five and just being around the team. So I think we’ve done a good job bonding.”
Magic fans may still be scratching their heads about what’s next for their team, but Nelson is excited about their potential.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Nelson. “I’m excited. We’ve been together talking about it. It’s almost like we’re waiting until it’s time to go. It’s a lot of excitement. We’re ready to get out there on the court together in a real situation. We have a lot of young guys, but those young guys have a lot of potential and play with a lot of energy. We haven’t been in a real game situation, but just playing pickup, you see the potential that they have and the potential that this team has.”
Nelson didn’t have to stick around to be part of the Magic’s massive rebuild, but ultimately he felt like Orlando was the best place for him, both professionally and personally.
“The thing was, you have to make a business decision for yourself and your family when you’re dealing with any business,” said Nelson. “After that, the thing I had to think about was, what’s my business going to be and where do I want to have my business? And I wouldn’t want to have it anywhere else but Orlando. I love the fans and the fans love me. They’ve definitely embraced myself and my family. We feel like this is our home now.”
Nelson knows there are tough times ahead, but he is also confident that he can be one of the key voices on a young team that needs a great deal of guidance.
“I just think that my job is going to change in me being more of a vocal leader and helping the guys get better every day,” said Nelson. “I’ve been through my last five years of great years with the organization, with the coaches and management we had. I know what it takes to win, so when we go through tough stretches. It’s going to be my job to lead those guys out of tough stretches.”
Watching the drastic changes made to the front office, coaching staff as well as roster wasn’t easy for Nelson, who admits he wasn’t on board with all of the moves.
“I’ve never said this publicly, but no, I wasn’t in favor of it, but I understand it’s a business,” said Nelson. “I had talks with (former GM) Otis (Smith) and (former head coach) Stan (Van Gundy) prior to the situation and after, so that tells you my relationship with those guys. I just know that they put me in a great situation, being my coach and being my GM, and giving me opportunities. But I also know that sometimes you need change and it’s not my decision to make the changes.”
As hard as it was to see Howard traded and so much of the team broken up as a result, Nelson feels his job is to continue to be Dwight’s friend and support him as he begins his career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“He wanted a change and that’s what he got. My job, for Dwight and to Dwight, is to be a friend,” said Nelson. “I told him I was happy for him. I was happy for him to be able to move on with his career and I wished him best of luck and hoped he got his recovery and his rehab and everything went well. We’d been together for X amount of years and it’s tough to see guys go, but like I said early, it’s always that business side of things.”
Magic fans will miss Dwight Howard, and it will take the organization years to recover from losing their franchise player. With Jameer Nelson still in the mix, however, the growth curve might not be quite as steep for the young Magic core, and the path back to respectability might not be quite as arduous as if the team were truly starting from scratch.
Yao Ming’s Next Cause
Former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming may no longer be in the NBA, but he is still literally and figuratively a giant celebrity back home in China. As such, he can have a significant impact by lending his voice to a cause, and he’s doing just that as he works to raise awareness about Africa’s illegal ivory trade. Yao is currently in Africa, filming a Chinese documentary about the poaching of elephants that is currently threatening the to drive the species to extinction.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, 70 percent of Chinese people surveyed did not know that an elephant has to be killed in order for its tusks to be taken, and Yao is hoping to radically raise the level of awareness. He has already been successful in raising awareness about the issue of shark poaching amongst his people, and he believes the potential for helping the elephant cause is even greater.
“Now it’s something almost shameful for young middle class people to eat, and I think the shark fin is harder to ban than ivory because there is a huge business chain involved whose living relied on shark, from fishing to shipping to sales, and many people could buy it.” Yao told the Christian Science Monitor. “That’s not the same with ivory.”
WildAid, based in San Francisco, is coordinating the effort to save the African elephant, hoping that through education they can decrease the demand for ivory, which will help stop the poaching. China’s new middle class has placed ivory in high demand, causing the price to triple in the last five years. Meanwhile, seizures of smuggle African tusks have doubled in less than a year to more than 23 tons in 2011, accounting for the death of an estimated 4,500 elephants.
“To win this battle against poaching we need multiple approaches,” said Yao. “What I am trying to do is to raise people’s awareness to show them the reality of the ivory business. When the killing of elephants happens n 10,000 miles away from you, it’s easy to hide yourself from that truth. If we show people, they will stop buying ivory. Then elephants will stop dying.”
Elodie Sampere is the head of a wildlife conservancy in central Kenya, and believes that few celebrities have the ability to influence an issue like Yao Ming.
“I don’t think any other celebrity has the kind of pull that he has, both East and West, and the awareness he’ll raise, I think, cannot be beaten,” Sampere told The Monitor.
Yao Ming’s contributions on the basketball court are over, but his contributions to the global community appear to be just beginning.
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