Okay, I'll start by acknowledging that I've been a somewhat irrational detractor of Rasheed Wallace's. Yeah, he was a great, great player in "04 and "05. But then there were the playoff meltdowns and Miami and Cleveland and the apparent total indifference to being completely humiliated by KG and Perkins in "08. And then clearly not playing hard in "09. And when I add to this years of unfulfilled potential in Portland--that was a colossal meltdown against the Lakers and it wouldn't have happened to a team led by B. Wallace--I can't help but think of him as at least equally cancerous as he has been beneficial to teams. In a nutshell, it strikes me that if you put Rasheed Wallace in a perfect situation for him--where he plays exactly the role he wants, where he's not put under too much pressure, where he's surrounded by people who put in overtime massaging is ego, and where the team is built for success--he is a difference maker. Take away any one of those factors (and god forbid, TWO of them) and he is as likely as not to be a net (pun) negative.
That's my bias. And I know this--that it's my bias--for a fact, because it is, after all, my bias. Now here comes my theory, based on ignorance. (And remember that a theory is not a statement of fact, but a supposition that is asking to be tested by evidence.)
I live overseas and did not see a moment of the Celtics-Lakers series. (I'm also far more of a Pistons' fan than an NBA fan, so even if I'd been Stateside, I'd probably only have caught a couple of fourth quarters and Game Seven.) But I did follow 'Sheed's season through the internet and the picture painted was vivid and consistent--he showed up in Boston out of shape and didn't work particularly hard. He tossed up an astounding number of threes and made an astonishingly low number of them. (Roughly 28%; add that to averaging roughly 6 rebounds per 36 minutes and his Morganaesque breasts and it's pretty hard to argue that Wallace put forth much effort.)
But the party line throughout the year was that if and when 'Sheed really wanted to light the fire, he could turn himself and the team around.( I seem to recall Van Gundy (or another national commentator) saying in MARCH that the Celtics were "waiting for 'Sheed to play himself into shape.")
As we all know, the Celtics rallied. They charged through the Eastern Conference and had the Lakers on the ropes. The loss of Perkins for Game Seven was potentially devastating, but the Celtics led through three quarters. Looking at the boxscore, 'Sheed had a decent game--11 points and 8 boards in 36 minutes. But here's where my theory is begging for testing---
Did Rasheed Wallace's season long lack of conditioning cost the Celtics a championship? For those who watched the Lakers' fourth quarter comeback--was 'Sheed notably winded? Did he fail to grab a couple of key rebounds,or not move as quickly on a rotation as a professional athlete earning $6 million a year would be expected to do? Understood--he did not expect to start or to play 36 minutes. But a true pro should have spent his entire year focused on being ready to do so if needed. There's little question that he did not work to be ready. But I'm wondering to what degree he actually failed to be ready. And if he did fail to be prepared in the most important game of the season, is it beyond the realm of possibility that Rasheed's year long laziness and selfish cost the Celts two or three buckets in the fourth? And with that an NBA Championship?
One stat stood out to me in the box score: a hobbled Andrew Bynum collected four offensive rebounds in nineteen minutes. Gasol gathered another nine, and the Lakers twenty-three in total. 'Sheed pulled in two in thirty-six minutes. That's a HUGE gap and hard not to see it as the single biggest key to the game. KG had an awful game on the boards, but however much many may dislike his personality, there's no basis to assume that he didn't play his hardest and that he didn't work from the very end of the previous season to have himself in the best possible shape for a hypothetical Game Seven. No one would argue this on 'Sheed's behalf.
After this too-lengthy intro, here is the Mushroom Theory of 'Sheedatatic Lethargy: Rasheed Wallace's selfish indifference to his professional obligations resulted in a significantly less than maximum performance in the most important game of the team's season and, thus, cost the Celtics a championship. And as an added corollary: This is a microcosm of 'Sheed's career and he--and his teamates and fans--finally paid the ultimate price for the way he has always, in unadulterated self-interest, conducted his career.