GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Wearing a Knicks practice jersey with the No. 36 on it, Rasheed Wallace sat down on a training table at the team’s training center Wednesday and began taking questions from a slew of reporters.
A four-time NBA All-Star who holds the league’s single season (41) and all-time records for technical fouls (304), Wallace quickly showed that he hasn’t lost any feistiness despite being away from the game for two years.
When a New York tabloid reporter tried to ask the 6-foot-11 Wallace a question, he shot back, “Oh, no, next question.”
Despite that short interaction, Wallace, 38, was pretty cordial with the media and said he decided to come back after Knicks coach Mike Woodson first contacted him seven months ago about coming out of retirement. Wallace last played for the Boston Celtics during the 2009-10 season, averaging 9.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.0 assists over 22.5 minutes.
“Once he got the head coaching gig he just gave me a call,” Wallace said of Woodson. “And I said, ‘For you, yeah.’ We have a good history coming from Detroit. We won one together [the 2004 NBA championship] so he asked me did I still want to play and I said I’ll come up there and see what I can do for you.”
Wallace holds career averages of 14.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.33 blocks in 1,088 games (956 starts) over 15 seasons with Washington, Portland, Atlanta, Detroit and Boston.
Wallace said there were “rumors” that he signed with the Lakers and the Heat, but that he never got serious with another team.
Terms were not disclosed but Wallace reportedly signed for the veteran’s minimum of $1.7 million for one year.
“Playing against Rasheed, I had some days when he played with Detroit,” Amar’e Stoudemire said. “He was a tough guy to guard. He was one of those bigs there that can cause a lot of havoc for the defender. He’s a guy who can space the floor, he’s great inside defensively so he’s going to help us a lot.”
Woodson said there were no guarantees on whether Wallace would stick with the club long term, but likes his potential — even at 38.
“It starts on the defensive end,” Woodson said. “He’s a presence defensively in terms of blocking shots, in terms of getting other guys, his teammates, in position when there’s a breakdown defensively. And if he’s got anything left offensively, he can make a shot and stretch the floor offensively.
“So only time will tell, guys. This is not something that’s definite. It’s an opportunity to look at him and see what he has left. And if he has something left, I think it could be a positive for our ballclub.”
Woodson said the club would evaluate Wallace over the next month, which includes six preseason games.
“We got a month, a little less than a month before we open up so I think it’s enough time, yes, ” Woodson said.
Wallace said he hopes to be ready for the season opener Nov. 1 in Brooklyn but has no expectations about playing time backing up Stoudemire at the four.
“I’m not expecting to come in here to average 25 points,” he said. “I’m not expecting to come in here to average 35-40 minutes. Wherever coach needs me at. If it’s two minutes then I’m out there for that two minutes going hard. If it’s 10 or 15 minutes, then I’m out there going hard. I’m not one to complain.
“I know I’m not the No. 1 guy here and I’m willing to accept my role.”
Under the supervision of Larry Johnson, Wallace worked out Wednesday alongside fellow big men Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas, who turns 40 on Thursday. Together, the threesome will be 116 years old then.
Still, Wallace, who worked out at his alma mater, North Carolina and in Pro Am Leagues there, wants to infuse the team with energy.
“I think it’s going to be exciting,” he said. “We’re going to try to get that Garden rockin’ and jumpin’ just like it’s a high school or college game, that type of atmosphere.”
Wallace is one of three Knicks with an NBA championship ring, center Tyson Chandler and point guard Jason Kidd being the others.
“Those are three guys that have been through the trenches in terms of being battle-tested as far as the playoffs are concerned and they pretty much have seen it all,” Woodson said. “When you go through a title run, there are a lot of roller-coasters along the way and only the strong survive.
“And Rasheed felt it in 2004, he was a part of it. And Tyson and Jason a few years back with Dallas, so hopefully some of that can rub off on the guys who haven’t experienced it and we can make our mark.
“It’s a long journey and I never said it was going to be easy but if I don’t get guys thinking about trying to win a title, what are you playing for? That’s the only reason why I’m in it as a coach. I’m not in it for nothing else. I want to win a title.”
Wallace said his goal is to help Carmelo Anthony and company win a ring in New York.
“I mean, I’m going to try to get it for him,” Wallace said. “I’m going to do what I can to help him reach his plateau. He’s won an NCAA so to complete his credentials he needs that NBA championship and I’m going to try to do what I can to help him do that.”
Wallace said he believes the Knicks have what it takes to compete in the East and for an NBA championship.
“That’s the main thing, to come back to win,” he said. “And not just win a certain amount of games, just to win it all. And I think that’s what we’re shooting for.”
Photo: Seth Rosenthal