“I don’t give a (expletive) about no trade rumors. As long as somebody ‘CTC,’ at the end of the day I’m with them. For all you that don’t know what CTC means, that’s ‘Cut the Check.’ I just go out there and play. Again, somebody just ‘CTC.'”
Never was this philosophy more evident in Rasheed Wallaceâ€™s career than the one game he played for the Atlanta Hawks during the 2003-04 season. In the middle of a season for which he is obviously better known for changing the fortunes of the Detroit Pistons on their way to an NBA Championship, Sheed made a cameo appearance for one of the leagueâ€™s worst teams in a game that featured all sorts of weird tidbits.
It was on this night that new Nets head coach Lawrence Frank set the all-time NBA record for consecutive victories to open a head-coaching career with 10, breaking a tie with Kurt Rambis of the Los Angeles Lakers (1998-99) and Buddy Jeannette of the Baltimore Bullets (1947-48). Nets point guard Jason Kidd recorded his 58th career triple-double with 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, moving him within one triple-double of tying Larry Bird on the all-time list. Kenyon Martin put up 21 points and 10 boards – his second 20-10 game of the season against Atlanta – and Richard Jefferson chipped in with 24 points and 6 rebounds of his own.
The game also featured Rasheed Wallace on the same team as fellow crazy person Stephen Jackson, who of course would go on to play a big role in The Malice at the Palace as an Indiana Pacer the very next season. The fact that Sheed, Captain Jack and Kenyon Martin were all on the floor in a game that saw two technical fouls doled out and none of them were on the receiving end of either one is a minor miracle.
Rasheed was traded from the Portland Trail Blazers, one of two professional teams he had ever known (he played 65 games for the Washington Bullets as a rookie before getting traded to Rip City), to the Atlanta Hawks along with Wesley Person in exchange for Shareef Abdur-Raheem, Theo Ratliff and Dan Dickau during the All-Star break. Amidst swirling rumors that he was about to be traded yet again, Sheed suited up for what amounted to just another ho-hum loss for the Hawks, and heÂ had what was a pretty typical mid-career Rasheed Wallace game.
He was active and aggressive on defense on his way to blocking 5 shots while not committing a single foul. He spent a little too much time on the perimeter, as he launched 6 three-pointers but made just one. Sheed being Sheed though, he still wound up with 20 points and 6 rebounds, scoring a little more and boarding a little less than his season averages of 16.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
But it was the 42 minutes that Rasheed willingly played for a team that he clearly wasnâ€™t staying with that stuck out in my mind. Everyone in NBA circles knew Wallace was headed out of town sooner rather than later, but he didnâ€™t care, because for that night at least, the Hawks were cutting the check. Check out his quotes to reporters after the game, and itâ€™s like you wouldnâ€™t even know that this was his first â€“ and likely to be his only â€“ game with the Hawks. When asked about being the first team in the Netsâ€™ 10-game win streak to not lose by double-digits, Sheed responded:
â€œEverybody thinks that just because we’re the Hawks we’re going to roll over and die. Maybe that was the thing before, but not now.â€
Rasheed Wallace, 2/18/04
That, to me, does not sound like a guy who just got there, nor like a guy on his way out of town two days later. But Sheed took immediate ownership of the team and the situation, because thatâ€™s what Sheed did, everywhere he went. When he was with you, he was with you, whether it was for one day or for five years. Heâ€™d play for whomever cut the check, but as with everything, he’d do it on his terms.