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There are two stories dominating New York newspapers on Wednesday morning.
The first is the reelection of President Barack Obama, obviously, and it's hard to argue with the choice to push that story over the second story that pops up just about everywhere you look right now. That would be the story of Rasheed Wallace, who has gone from punchline to human victory cigar to actually productive member of the rotation in less time than it took for Jeremy Lin to set off a frenzy last season.
You can find stories about Wallace in the Times, Post, Daily News and Bergen Record all cover the man who has returned from two years wandering in the wilderness to give the Knicks some minutes in the frontcourt this season. The overwhelming conclusion is that Wallace is a basketball sage who is benefiting the Knicks in every possible way because of his vast experience and lack of vanity resulting from his absence.
Strangely, Newsday, owned by the same people who own the Knicks, resists the rush to Rasheed despite the fact that he's provided off-the-charts entertainment value so far.
It's not just the touch he's shown from three-point range, including a giddy buzzer beater at the end of the third quarter on Monday night, or the fact that it looks like he'll actually provide some value as a rim defender that makes him entertaining either. It's the way he interacts with his teammates, celebrates his successes and, especially, the way he talks about it after the game.
"I accept my Brian Scalabrine role. I'm cool with it," Wallace said after the opener, when the crowd chanted his name late in the blowout win over the Heat.
"It’s three points. Take that to the head," Wallace said of his new post-three celebration featuring three fingers pointed at the head as if they were a gun.
There's 79 more games, folks. This is just the start of the fun.
When Wallace signed, it seemed like the perfect jokey end to a Knicks offseason that was spent adding to the team's likelihood of getting a group discount on Metamucil. He hadn't played in two years and didn't have much gas left in the tank when he finished up a dismal season with the Celtics in 2010, so there wasn't much reason to think that he'd be able to offer the Knicks all that much.
Weighing one's own basketball mortality can do strange things to a man, however, and Wallace has shown up with the right attitude and the same skills that made him a four-time All-Star earlier in his career. Wallace is playing hard, he's obviously accepted his role in the pecking order and knows that those two things could help buy him a bigger role.
Two of the few certain things about this Knicks team are that it will revolve around Carmelo Anthony and that Tyson Chandler is vital to the defense. After that, though, there's going to be all kinds of mixing and matching of pieces based on the opponent and the specifics of the game on a given night.
Some nights Marcus Camby or Kurt Thomas will be the right call for minutes and Wallace will be doing his thing on the bench. Other nights will call for a bearded magician working the low block the way a sculptor works a piece of marble.
And then it will all get tossed again when Amar'e Stoudemire returns, although Wallace might actually be one of the best guys to have on hand when that fateful day rolls around. If things continue to go well, Wallace will all be able to use his starry resume as confirmation of his right to tell Stoudemire that there comes a day when you have to accept different roles for the good of the team.
The story of this Knicks season is going to come down to how well the players on the team adapt to new roles and new responsibilities. Wallace can be a big part of that on and off the court because his mere presence as a calming leader instead of technical foul generating wildcat is a sign that people (and maybe teams) can change for the better.