The quiet of Rasheed Wallace’s retirement in North Carolina was interrupted last spring by a call from an old coach.
”Out of the blue, coach Woody called me like, `Young fella, what are you doing?”’ Wallace said of Mike Woodson.
”I’m like, `Uh, you know, just down here enjoying life, enjoying the summer, down here with my mom, taking it easy,”’ Wallace recalled. ”That’s all I was doing pretty much.”
Woodson had something else in mind.
The Knicks coach wanted depth in his frontcourt and remembered the success he and Wallace had in Detroit on Larry Brown’s 2004 NBA championship team. So they were back together Wednesday – an older, mellowed Wallace ending a two-year retirement to sign with the Knicks.
”We have a good history coming from Detroit,” Wallace said. ”We won one together, so he asked me if I still want to play. I said, `I’ll come up there and see what I can do for you.”’
Woodson isn’t sure what that might be, using the term ”only time will tell” at least three times when asked about Wallace’s potential. But the Knicks were young and thin in the frontcourt last season, so he figures it’s wise to give the four-time All-Star a shot.
”The fact that he’s asked to come out of retirement and play, for me it’s great to give him a shot because I remember the good times,” Woodson said. ”I don’t know if he still has it yet until he gets out here and he starts working and playing, but only time will tell.”
Wallace said he decided in late August after a few conversations with Woodson to attempt the comeback. He cited his respect for the laid-back Woodson, an assistant under Brown whom Wallace credited with calming down the player who once racked up 40 technical fouls in a season.
The 38-year-old Wallace last played for the Boston Celtics in the 2009-10 season. Terms of his contract were not announced, but the Knicks could offer only the veteran’s minimum of about $1.7 million.
Wallace averaged 14.6 points and 6.7 rebounds in 15 seasons. The temperamental 6-foot-11 forward was whistled for 308 technical fouls, according to STATS, LLC, easily the most in the league during that span. He led the league seven times, including his final season.
But with plenty of gray sprinkled in his hair, Wallace says his clashes with referees and the media are a thing of the past.
”I’m too old for that,” Wallace said. ”My kids are older now, so I’m too old for that.”
The former North Carolina Tar Heel had returned to Chapel Hill, working out with college players and competing in pro-am leagues. He now takes his place with a group of reserves some 20 years older than the guys he’s been around. Kurt Thomas turns 40 on Thursday, Jason Kidd is 39 and Marcus Camby also 38.
Woodson isn’t expecting Wallace to play a big role, and Wallace understands he’s not coming to New York to have one. If he makes the team, he’ll back up center Tyson Chandler and forward Amare Stoudemire, bringing his tough, interior defense and good perimeter shooting that made him such a versatile player.
”This is not something that’s definite,” Woodson said. ”It’s an opportunity to look at him and see what he has left, and if he has something left I think it can be a positive for our ballclub.”
Wallace said he retired in 2010 for personal reasons and assumed it was for good. But he said those concerns were resolved, and he’s eager to play again after not seriously considering it before Woodson’s call.
”He’s told me his ideas. He’s told me his plans, and I just want to see if I can fit in there somewhere,” Wallace said. ”Like they say: Get in where you fit in.”