Friday, February 24, 2012

Instant Trade Analysis: Rasheed Wallace to the Los Angeles Lakers

I won't try to front with you loyal MAMBINO audience - this is a general sports blog, but we're focused on the Dodgers, Lakers, Yankees and Knicks. We just can't help it. It's in our DNA. We study these teams like it's our jobs. Doing so might be the reason why haven't moved on to bigger and better things in real life. Every signing is significant for us, no matter how insignificant it might be on the general sporting hemisphere.

And thus I bring to you the Rasheed Wallace Instant Trade Analysis. Earlier tonight, Wallace was signed by the Lakers, for what I expect will be the veteran's prorated minimum salary (seeing as the over-the-salary-cap Lakers can offer no other deal).

Weeks ago, the Lakers released injured forward Derrick Caracter, a move which many thought would precipitate either the trade for or free agent signing of a point guard and playmaker the Lakers so obviously lack. After weeks of speculation of everyone from Gilbert Arenas, to Ramon Sessions to Allen Iverson to Jonny Flynn, the Lakers finally laid their hand down and signed point guard and playmaker Rasheed Wallace.

I'm sorry, what's that? Rasheed is a 37 year-old outside shooting forward? Who at his best was one of the most skilled and unguardable big men in the league, but at his worst was a plodding, lazy, overweight 7-footer, shot 6 3-pointers a game and unleashed a record 41 technical fouls in a season? Oh, that guy. The antithesis of what the Lakers need.

Sheed last played memorably in a start against the Lakers in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, placed into the starting five when Kendrick Perkins went down with a blown-out right knee. After that game, Wallace retired from the active competition, completing a buy-out with the Celtics and sliding into obscurity. Reportedly, he showed up to a Pro-Am golf tournament weeks ago in the "best shape he's been in in years". No word if that report came from Alice Cooper, Justin Timberlake or Bill Murray.

Regardless, Sheed's signing left me mystified. Why would the Lakers use their open roster spot on a guy who a) hasn't played in two years, b) wasn't good when we last saw him and c) struggled to find motivation on a Pistons team that was ticketed for an annual trip to the Eastern Conference Finals? After sorting through my thoughts for a bit and pushing aside the residual hatred for a man that played on 3 of the Lakers' biggest historical rivals (Portland, Detroit and Boston), I came up with a few reasons for this move.

1) This is in preparation for a Pau Gasol trade

Let's just start off this section of the post by suggesting that the Lakers believe that Rasheed still has something left to contribute to a professional basketball team, and that he won't be a significant distraction. I find this claim a bit dubious considering the lack of trust most fans have in the LA braintrust at the moment, but let's just suspend our disbelief, much like Rasheed does whenever he commits a foul.

Regardless of how much he has left in the tank, Rasheed is a legit 7-footer with long arms and a big body. Even in his last game in the Finals against the Show, he showed he still could rebound, shoot and defend if properly motivated. I imagine that a man like Rasheed wouldn't be coaxed out of retirement if not given the guarantee that he'll play some sort of significant role on the team. Right now, the Lakers currently have Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Troy Murphy in their rotation. Offseason signing Josh McRoberts meanwhile, is riding the DNP-CD train, round trip, in the overnight car. Signing another forward/center wouldn't make sense unless Rasheed was going to contribute. That would give the Lakers 5 big men for a 3 man rotation. One would have to go.

That being said, could this just be a precursor for a Pau Gasol trade? We've got a post on that ready to go for next week, but Gasol's potential departure from the Lakers for a difference-making playmaker has been bandied about for weeks. Could this be the move before the move?

2) The Lakers still need a point guard, but signing one through free agency is probably not happening.

As I mentioned, signing Rasheed doesn't solve the Lakers' most glaring and visible weakness. Since the Lakers have no more open spaces on their 15-man roster, the only way that they'd be able to acquire one is through trading or cutting Jason Kapono (shooting only 30% from three, 39% from the field). If they weren't open to letting go the poor man's Steve Novak before (that was just for you BockerKnocker) or signing them outright without removing anyone, then I highly doubt they'd cut him now for a free agent guard like Gilbert Arenas or Allen Iverson.

3) This signing means nothing at all.

Plain and simple, beyond Bynum, Kobe and Pau, this isn't a very talented Lakers team. They need depth and maybe Rasheed can give them that. He's always been the type of player that needed to prove something in order to be motivated to play hard. Perhaps coming back from retirement and showing everyone that he still "has it" will serve as the twinkie to make this piggy sprint from baseline to baseline.

I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice
But I don't see any of this. The Lakers have most of the facets of Rasheed Wallace's game in an equally ugly player (physically, and in terms of his skills from time to time) in Troy Murphy. Murph is big, long, rebounds, shoots the three and is absolutely allergic to paint. After 2 years away from the game and a legendarily poor work ethic, is there any chance that Rasheed gives the Lakers more than Troy Murphy has been giving them for the past 3 months? Probably not. I'm more than happy to give the guy a chance because, as I said all along as pertaining to Gilbert Arenas, if he's serviceable, then great! There's another skilled player on a roster bereft of talent, and especially big game experience.

But if he acts up in the locker room, gets thrown out of a few game or says "Ball don't lie" even once, cut him. It's a small financial commitment to pay for a low-risk, potentially medium reward gamble. He could give the Lakers another tough defense-oriented body up front, spread the floor with his shooting and rebound (maybe).

This isn't the Lakers' only move before the trade deadline. They have two draft picks to pedal, along with an $8.9 million dollar trade exception to take on a contract and a couple young players. They will acquire a point guard, anyone from Ramon Sessions to Deron Williams is a possibility. The Lakers are extremely cognizant of their biggest weakness (and thus, the attempted Chris Paul trade in December), and know that they must address it. This isn't a desperation move as I've heard a lot of people suggest, because the Lakers aren't up against the trade deadline yet. There's still a lot of time to make deals and hopefully the Lakers have something brewing.

All in all, I give this trade an incomplete grade, because I think it's only the first domino. For the transaction itself, I give it a C-. For my personal feeligns and how it affects my gag reflex, I give it an F. I really hate Rasheed Wallace.

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