EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 29, 2009

Wild about Wallace: Rasheed a perfect fit for C's

On Pro Basketball

BOSTON — It was opening night for "The Rasheed Wallace Show" here at the TD Garden last night.

And it was much more entertaining and enlightening than the main event, a 92-59 drubbing by the Boston Celtics over the helpless Charlotte Bobcats.

If your image of the veteran Wallace was anything like mine — after Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals in May 2008, he told me "Get out of my face! I said, 'Get out of my face!'" — you're in for the surprise.

Wallace is a Boston Celtic.

He's not just an important cog. He's JoJo White. He's Dave Cowens. He's John Havlicek. He's Kevin McHale. He's Robert Parish. He's every Celtic who cared only about one thing.

"The stats don't matter," said Wallace, who tallied nine points and five rebounds in a paltry 16 minutes. "The win. That's all the matters."

Wallace, though, is a little different than the aforementioned ex-Celtics. He's got personality.

If he's not hugging somebody, including a referee (I saw it!), he's pointing at somebody on the opposing bench making some friendly threat.

When the scoreboard showed the Phillies were leading the Yankees, 2-0, through six innings, Wallace walked over to a Yankees-loving teammate on the bench to rub it in.

"I'm a life-long Phillies fan," said Wallace, a graduate of Simon Gratz High in the City of Brotherly Love. "You bet I'm proud."

It isn't often a guy can walk into a Celtics locker room, without ever having worn the green jersey, and make claims that his new team might be the best ever.

Wallace said it and got away with it.

He has only been a Celtic for two games, but it might as well be two years or even two decades.

"(Rasheed) fits the mold of our ballclub with his energy, his passion and what's about — you know, winning a championship," said Celts captain Paul Pierce. "His personality is perfect with what we have over here."

The difference between this year and the last two, including the championship season, is Wallace.

The Celtics bench, which relied on guys like Brian Scalabrine and Mikki Moore to save the day against the Orlando Magic last spring, is in position to save the day.

Wallace really is the official replacement for James Posey, who was the unofficial captain of the second unit in 2007-08. The Celtics weren't able to replace Posey last year.

"The swagger Rasheed brings is crazy," said Celts center Kendrick Perkins. "He's the same as Kevin (Garnett). His intensity is high all of the time. And his basketball IQ is through the roof. ... I love Rasheed."

You will, too, despite him being the perennial NBA leader in technicals and scowls.

During a timeout, it was announced that a fan would be asked to pick out the karaoke song being sung by a Celtic. Guess who that Celtic was? Wallace.

The 6-foot-11 inch Bonnie Tyler wannabe sang, "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

Simon Cowell would have said, "That was dreadful." But it was wonderful, too.

Wallace knows everyone is watching him, and quite frankly, he doesn't care.

"I'm having fun," said Wallace. "I am very comfortable here. The guys have been great accepting me from the Day 1. I can't explain why. It just happened."

Wallace's game, though, is no surprise. He plays defense and he rebounds. Oh, yes, he hasn't met a 3-point shot he hasn't liked, throwing up eight last night (or one every two minutes).

"When he's on the floor with Kevin, you see the lane is open," said Pierce. "You have driving lanes because teams are helping off him because of the way he's shooting the ball. ... He's the total package — I mean on both ends of the floor."

Yes, he is the total package.

He's a Celtic. And he has personality.

E-mail Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.