The trade between Brooklyn and Boston in the 2013 offseason is well-known around these parts. While it was announced in June and became official in July, sightings of Gerald Wallace were unheard of. Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks and Kris Humphries, the three other players who came across in the trade, had all made appearances with the media and in training. Wallace didn’t appear in the Celtics practice facility until it was compulsory, and questions surrounded whether he even wanted to be there.
When speaking with the media, Wallace was professional in his responses, and put his disappearing act down to spending time away from the spotlight. His new teammates spoke volumes of his leadership qualities and professional attitude. In October, a poor preseason showing against the 76ers motivated Wallace to call out his teammates (via A. Sherrod Blakley):
“Guys are out there being selfish, and their opponents are playing with effort, giving their all regardless of how the night is going,” said Wallace who led the Celtics with 16 points. “Tonight we ran into another team that wanted the game more than we did. And they came and played like it. We had some good spurts, but when it came down to it they were determined to win the game and we (weren’t).”
“Veteran, rookie, whatever you want to call it. I was always taught, you can’t teach effort,” Wallace said. “And you can’t teach somebody how to give effort. They either got it or they don’t.”
Wallace added, “We’re professionals. So our main thing is, you should go out every night and want to win. It shouldn’t be a question of the effort. You’re going to miss shots. You’re going to turn the ball over. Things aren’t going to go your way. But it shouldn’t be because you’re not playing hard, you’re not giving your all.”
At the time it was seen as a good motivator, a veteran leading his young teammates by example. And to be fair to Wallace, he is a man always putting his body on the line. He didn’t receive the nickname ‘Crash’ for no reason, as we have already seen through 11 games. The only problem was, just over a week later Crash was telling the media about it again after the Celtics loss to Milwaukee on November 2nd (via Ben Rohrbach)
“We got selfish,” he said after the Celtics blew a 22-point lead in a 105-98 loss to the Bucks. “We got selfish as a team. Instead of worrying about winning the ballgame, we were more worried about our stats, getting points. It showed. We went from a team that was together and moving and playing together in the first half to a team that was five individuals out on the court, everybody playing for themselves, and it showed on the defensive end.”
In the space of just over a week you had to wonder how effective this would be, and what these comments would do to a young team. That’s not to say Wallace has just been complaining for no reason, it would be hard to move from one team looking to contend, back to one that just traded away their star players.
Below is an illustration of how frustrating it must be sometimes, putting your body on the line for your team only for a teammate to let you down. The screen shots are from the Celtics game against the Grizzlies. Wallace throws his body on the line for a steal, and outlets to rookie big Vitor Faverani. Faverani loses the ball by taking his eyes off, and Memphis scores an easy two while Wallace picks himself up of the floor. Growing pains!
After the first four games of the regular season, coach Stevens reshuffled the starting line-up, inserting Jordan Crawford at the point, allowing Avery Bradley to shift to shooting guard, which left Gerald Wallace with the role of sixth man. And you guessed it, more quotes from Mr. Wallace (via CSNNE):
“I don’t really know what to think,” Wallace, a 13-year NBA veteran, initially said of the move. “Like I said, I don’t know my role. I don’t know what’s going on. I just go; when they ask me to play, I’ll play. We’ll just go from there.”
But something changed. The move to the bench inspired a four game winning streak for Boston, including a triumphant victory against the defending champs in Miami. After 7 games and 4 wins, Wallace has done a complete 180 and seems more than happy with his role as sixth man. And so he should, it suits him perfectly on this team.
“Coming off the bench this late in my career is pretty good. I don’t think I can average 30, 40-45 minutes anymore,” Wallace said Thursday. “It helps our team out bringing that energy off the bench.”
It’s a seamless fit for Wallace. He provides that energy that he has based his entire career on, while giving the starters some rest in the process. Since coming off the bench, averages of 5.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals in 24 minutes per game illustrates what a great fit this bench role is for Crash. His statistics are actually similar off the bench compared to when he was starting, despite playing 10 minutes less per contest. He can assert himself with the second unit, and really give all of his energy in shorter bursts.
The happier version of Gerald Wallace will be a good thing for all involved. He can focus on his game with a definitive role as the sixth man, the young nucleus can continue to develop their games with extended minutes, and the environment of the locker room will also be a better place. Because happy is always better than angry.
Share your thoughts on Wallace’s fit as the sixth man with us in the comments section below!
– Michael (@mickyt34)