Wallace Joins Knicks, Reuniting With Woodson

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Under the basket was Rasheed Wallace. With his new Knicks teammates Amar’e Stoudemire and Marcus Camby to his right and left going through post move drills, Wallace was grinning above his signature ungroomed beard. His wore his practice jersey backward so you could see his No. 36 below his face. His sweat pants were cut at his shins.

Inside the Knicks’ practice facility Wednesday, Wallace, 38, was still the same quirky and charismatic player that he was for 15 N.B.A. seasons. Wallace made his return to the league – after a two-year retirement – by signing what is probably a one-year veteran’s minimum deal for around $1.7 million.

Wallace, who received offers from multiple N.B.A. teams the last two years, said he wanted to play for only one coach: Mike Woodson. It was Woodson, perhaps with perfect timing, who called Wallace in May. That was the same month the Knicks removed his interim title.”He asked me if I still wanted to play,” Wallace said of Woodson, who coached him as an assistant in Detroit. “It meant a lot that Coach Woodson still has that feeling that I can be a positive influence on this team.”

Still, the Knicks already have a crowded frontcourt. Wallace also represents a continuation of the Knicks’ emphasis this off-season on acquiring more experienced players. According to Stats L.L.C., the average age of 13 Knicks players under contract is 32 years 240 days. That makes them the oldest team in league history. Wallace is the fourth-oldest player on the team behind Jason Kidd (39), Kurt Thomas (39) and Camby (38).

The Knicks are taking a gamble that Wallace will stay healthy, not be the volatile player who led the league in technical fouls and not disrupt the team’s chemistry (the Knicks already have J. R. Smith, who is also known as being unpredictable and temperamental).

Because he was not cleared to practice Wednesday, Wallace shagged rebounds – which the Knicks hope he can do during the season – for Stoudemire, Camby and Thomas. Wallace said he was pleased to already have relationships with his teammates.

“I’ve played against darn near everybody on the team,” he said.

Whether Wallace can perform at a high enough level to help the Knicks remains a question. Woodson believes he will have an answer after the preseason.

“I don’t know if he still has it until he gets out here and starts playing,” Woodson said. “Training camp and six exhibition games is enough time to evaluate him.”

Woodson said it felt great to give Wallace an opportunity. When Wallace talked about his coach, he did an impression of Woodson.

Wallace remembers well the history the two developed in Detroit. Wallace played at his best when the Pistons defeated the Los Angeles Lakers for the N.B.A. title in 2004. Woodson was an assistant that year with the Pistons. The respect Woodson had for his players and his demeanor impressed Wallace.

“You know with myself being a hothead and with Ben Wallace, the way he was, Coach Woodson kept us calm,” Wallace said. “He was the one that quieted the storm.”

Once Woodson made the offer, Wallace did not have to struggle with what he should do.

“Rasheed and Mike had a number of talks,” Wallace’s agent, Bill Strickland, said. “He decided this was something he wanted to do.”

The last game Wallace played in the league was Game 7 of the 2010 finals as a member of the Boston Celtics. The Celtics fell to the Lakers, but Wallace had 11 points and 8 rebounds. He retired for personal reasons and to help take care of his mother. Since then, he has played in North Carolina Pro-Am games during the summer.

Wallace knows another year in the N.B.A. will be a challenge. But he is ready to help Woodson and the Knicks try to win a title.

“We’re trying to go after that golden ball,” he said. “We have the opportunity to do that. If Coach needs me for two minutes, then I’m out there for those two minutes going hard.”

This is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.

PHOTO: Rasheed Wallace in 2006. Now 38, he has not played in the N.B.A. since 2010. (PHOTOGRAPH BY PAUL SANCYA/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Knicks May Sign Rasheed Wallace Out of Retirement

The Knicks appear to be one step closer to signing Rasheed Wallace, who could be the latest and yet another veteran player this off-season to join the team just before training camp. A person with direct knowledge of the situation said Wallace took his physical with the Knicks’ training staff Thursday.

Wallace has considered coming out of retirement for the last two years. The decision to get a physical could be a signal that his signing with the Knicks might be imminent. The person close to the situation said Wallace could sign a league minimum deal (around $1.7 million) – which is all the Knicks can offer – as soon as Friday afternoon.

It’s unclear whether Wallace would sign a full guaranteed contract or a partially guaranteed deal. The Knicks have 13 players under guaranteed contract.

Wallace’s agent, Bill Strickland, said that he hadn’t spoken directly with Wallace or the Knicks on Friday about a contract from the team. Earlier this week, Strickland said Wallace was the only person discussing a possible deal with the Knicks. At this point, Wallace is only interested in joining the Knicks this season to return to the N.B.A.

“I’m extremely confident that if Rasheed ends his retirement, it will only be with the Knicks,” said Strickland, who has represented Wallace since he entered the league in 1995. “He only wants to join the Knicks if he decides to sign a contract.”

Coach Mike Woodson was an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons when Wallace helped the Pistons win the 2004 N.B.A. championship.

Wallace, 38, worked out with the Knicks on Saturday at their Greenburgh, N.Y., practice gym. The last game Wallace played in the N.B.A. was Game 7 of the 2010 finals as a member of the Boston Celtics. The Celtics lost that game to the Los Angeles Lakers. Wallace played well in the final game of his career, scoring 11 points with 8 rebounds. He averaged 9 points and 4.5 rebounds a game coming off the bench that season.

If Wallace becomes a Knick, he will be the fourth oldest player on the roster, a remarkable statistic given that Wallace is 38 years old. Jason Kidd (age 39), Kurt Thomas (39), and Marcus Camby (38) joined the team this off-season.

This is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.

Knicks’ Executives Project Confidence in Off-Season Moves

Why, a reporter asked Grunwald, did the Knicks decide to let Lin, last season’s sensation, depart in July rather than match the $25.1 million offer sheet extended to him by the Houston Rockets? Until now, the Knicks have never explained on the record what their reasoning was in letting Lin go, but before Grunwald could belatedly address the matter, Woodson jumped in and answered first.

“I think as a franchise, we wish him nothing but the best,” Woodson said. “We were able to get a player by the name of Raymond Felton. This day is really about the team we have fielded this summer and we need to focus in on that.”

Woodson, who lost the interim in front of his job title when the Knicks signed him to a multiyear deal in May, offered his answer with the assurance of someone confident in his status with the club. After a summer in which he recruited an old teammate, the Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, to work with first Amar’e Stoudemire and then with all the Knicks’ big men, it was Woodson, not Grunwald, who did most of the talking Monday. In many ways it was the Mike Woodson Show, with Grunwald seemingly content to play a secondary role.

Not that Woodson did not go out of his way to compliment his boss, saying, “I couldn’t be more proud to work with Glen, in terms of being able to get players that wanted to be here and players I think I can win with.”

And not that Grunwald, who patted Woodson on the back when the news conference began, declined to speak. Of Lin, he said, the Knicks’ decision “came down to the fact that Houston made a commitment to him that we weren’t prepared to make.”

“We had a lot of options available to us, and we felt the Raymond Felton option was the best one,” he added.

Felton, who had a decent 54 games for the Knicks during the 2010-11 season before being traded, had a poor 2011-12 season for Portland in which he was out of shape. At 28, he is four years older than Lin but far younger than many of the aging veterans the Knicks picked up in the off-season.

Woodson and Grunwald naturally were asked why the Knicks had signed so many players who were so old: Jason Kidd (age 39), Kurt Thomas (39), Marcus Camby (38), Pablo Prigioni (35) and perhaps Rasheed Wallace (38), who is expected to come out of retirement to play for Woodson.

As he had with the question about Lin, Woodson jumped right in, telling reporters that he did not want a young team, that he already coached an inexperienced club — the 2004-5 Atlanta Hawks — and did not want to do that again. It is older teams, he contended, that win N.B.A. championships, not young ones.

“I don’t think we’re too old,” Woodson added. “I think when you look at the core group of our team — Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire — we felt we needed veteran pieces around those guys.”

Grunwald agreed.

“When the Dallas Mavericks won the championship a few years ago, their average age was 30,” he said. “It takes veteran teams to win. I think we have some excellent veterans.”

One issue that Woodson will have to address is how to get Stoudemire and Anthony to play in sync on the court, something they have done only sporadically in their time together in New York.

“It’s my job to make that work,” Woodson said. “I think when you’re building a championship team, it’s not going to be Carmelo’s night every night, it’s not going to be Amar’e’s night every night. I think that’s why we’ve been able to feel really good about the veteran guys we added, because they’ll be able to take some of the pressure off.”

Woodson says he wants to win now. He stressed that over and over Monday. He acknowledged that a lot of things would have to go right for the Knicks to fulfill his plan to claim one of the top four spots in the Eastern Conference, but said, “We have a legitimate shot as anybody in the N.B.A. this season.”

Many in and around the N.B.A. would disagree with that assessment, but media day, like spring training, is for optimism. And right now, optimist No. 1 is Mike Woodson, with 82 games ahead of him.