Stackhouse, veterans shine in Battle of the Boroughs

12/12/2012 12:00 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

From 1993: Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace prior to their freshman season at UNC.(UNC Basketball)
BROOKLYN -- For two seasons in the mid-1990s, Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace were teammates at the University of North Carolina, leading the Tar Heels to the Final Four in 1995. Both men left school that spring and declared for that June’s NBA Draft, where the UNC sophomores were drafted third by Philadelphia and fourth by Washington, respectively.

More than 17 years later, the potent pair is still in the league and once again plying their trade in the same city, with Stackhouse coming to Brooklyn as one of the Nets’ many new signees this summer and Wallace ending a two-year retirement to join the Knicks.

Although they’ve each played for the Wizards, Hawks, and Pistons in their NBA careers, the two men have never again worn the same uniform – but they have played against each other dozens of times, a total that includes each man’s NBA debut back in 1995. So far in 2012-13, they’ve been on the court against each other twice; each side has taken one game, and they will meet for a third time on Dec. 19 at Madison Square Garden.

It’s a moment that, like the first two, Stackhouse will relish.

“It’s so great to see him still out there competing, still doing what we love to do,” Stackhouse said of Wallace after Tuesday night’s Knicks win over the Nets.

Prior to the game, Wallace admitted the same of Stackhouse; he knows that neither is the elite player they once were – quipping that their biggest contributions to the intra-city battle would probably be “seeing who has the loudest voice coming from the bench or whatever” – but the fact that they’re still key rotation players is a testament to what they’ve learned all the way back to their UNC days.

“It’s awesome, though. That just shows longevity,” Rasheed said of his schoolmate. “Stack’s been around just as long as I have and he knows how to take care of his body.”

Wallace was the winner on both the scoreboard and in the box Tuesday contributing eight points (including a pair of three-pointers) and five rebounds in 14 minutes off the Knicks’ bench while Stackhouse was held scoreless in his 21 minutes. It was a contrast from their first meeting, where Stackhouse scored 14 and drilled a pair of key three-pointers late to lead Brooklyn to an overtime victory, but the veteran Nets guard knows that’s the nature of the game.

“(Wallace) made some key plays for them early on; he’s still one of the smartest guys out there, and understands the game extremely well,” Stackhouse said.

A year prior to Wallace and Stackhouse entering the league, Dallas made another current Knicks veteran, point guard Jason Kidd, the No. 2 overall pick of the 1994 NBA Draft. Kidd now plays with Wallace, but he does have some team history with Stackhouse too; the two men were teammates in Dallas in 2008-09, and in fact, Stackhouse was supposed to be part of the February 2008 trade that brought Kidd from the then-New Jersey Nets to Big D.

But on Tuesday, they were rivals, and it was Kidd’s three-pointer – one that he hit with Stackhouse barreling down on him, and eventually fouling him – that was the difference.

It was a moment that made many longtime fans reminiscent of both players’ glory days, but also one that Stackhouse wasn’t surprised about.

“I’m not surprised at all (he made that shot),” Stackhouse said. “He knows how to win, he competes his butt off all game, and he had been doing well all night. It happened the ball found him, and he made something great happen.”

The end is likely nearing for all three veterans, but for one night in Brooklyn, the trio was an important part of the second straight close game between a pair of intra-city rivals…and will likely to continue to shine even as they prepare to ride off into the sunset in the very near future.

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