Forward thinking pays off
WALTHAM - In the offseason, when Rasheed Wallace was just a name on the Celtics’ wish list, Doc Rivers called up a few coaches to hear what they thought about bringing Wallace to Boston.
One was Larry Brown, who coached Wallace in Detroit. After immediately telling Rivers, “Get him,’’ Brown explained his logic.
“If Kevin [Garnett] goes down like he did last year,’’ Brown told Rivers, “and you have Rasheed Wallace, that’s a pretty good alternative.’’
When the Celtics’ brass visited Wallace, having seen a possible run at back-to-back titles end partly because of a knee that cost Garnett 24 games and kept him out of the playoffs, Wallace knew they were looking at him as sort of an insurance policy.
“I looked at that early in the summer when Boston was one of the teams I was thinking about,’’ Wallace said.
“If [Garnett] was playing good, if he was on a roll, that knee’s feeling better or leg feeling better, then I knew my minutes would be limited. But on the other hand, I knew that if he did go down I would have to step in that role.’’
Signing Wallace before the season gave the Celtics an All-Star off the bench, but also gave them an “In Case of Emergencies’’ option. And with a hyperextended knee sidelining Garnett the past two games and likely keeping the All-Star forward out until at least Jan. 13, the Celtics have had to break the glass and pull the lever, counting on the 14-year veteran to fill Garnett’s role while the injury-ravaged roster recovers.
“I went to him after the Phoenix game and I told him we need him to be a leader right now,’’ said center Kendrick Perkins.
“Obviously, he could do it. He showed it last game [against Toronto], we just need him to do it every game. Just go out there and be the leader, talking, getting guys out of control when things are going bad for us and things like that.’’
The notion when Wallace arrived was that he and Garnett were basketball twins, both long and fiery with the ability to play anywhere from small forward to center.
“They’re very similar in a lot of ways,’’ said associate coach Tom Thibodeau. “The way they communicate is special and unique. I think their intensity is special and unique. Not only are they very talented but they put everything they have into everything they’re doing.’’
But Wallace, who has taken more 3-pointers this season (151) than Garnett’s taken the past six seasons (131), isn’t a Big Ticket clone.
“They’re two different players,’’ Perkins said. “Rasheed’s more physical. Kevin’s physical . . . [but he] kind of outsmarts you a little bit. ’Sheed gets physical with you throughout the play. Ticket’s thing is he plays with a lot more energy. He brings intensity. I mean Rasheed does but that’s one of Ticket’s strong points.’’
The defensive chemistry that Perkins and Garnett developed in two seasons together isn’t the same as it is with Wallace, but Perkins said being on the floor together at this stage of the season could help prepare them for later in the year, should an emergency arise.
“I think this is going to help me and Rasheed in the long term for when the playoffs come,’’ Perkins said. “You never know, Kevin could get in foul trouble or anything could happen. So I think this could help us in the long term.’’
Thibodeau led the practice in Rivers’s absence, saying, “Practice was good and bad. Normally, coming off a day off it’s a little sloppy, but the intensity I thought was very good and the intentions were good.’’
Perkins joked, “Guys did a few things in the offense that they wouldn’t have done if Doc was here, but that was expected. But we still had a good practice.’’
So far this season, he’s shot 37.9 percent on 3-pointers, but in the past three games he’s shown signs of life, hitting 8 of 17.
“For whatever reason, I haven’t been shooting the ball particularly well,’’ House said. “It happened to me like this last year, too. But, you know, you just keep plugging and keep working on what you need to work on and try to get your shots and continue to take your shots and try to do what you’ve done your whole career.
“Eventually you’ll get back to what you do. The shot’s starting to feel good now. I’ve got a good rhythm. I’m feeling good, my body feels good. So I’ll just continue to try to build on that.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.