Celtics Circuit: Will Gerald Wallace Defy Age With Celtics?
Gerald Wallace is entering a very important stage in his career. When the 31-year-old forward was traded to the Boston Celtics, he was seen as an asset in a future trade for the rebuilding Celtics.
Wallace was traded from the Portland Trail Blazers to the then-New Jersey Nets in March of the lockout-shortened 2011-’12 season for center Mehmet Okur, forward Shawne Williams, and a lottery-protected 2012 first-round pick. At that time, Wallace was seen as a starting forward for an organization who was moving to Brooklyn and looking to transition themselves into a championship contender. The Nets spent a lot of money in the summer of 2012 as they signed Wallace to a four-year, $40 million deal. Wallace was instrumental in helping lead the former Charlotte Bobcats into the playoffs in 2009-’10 when the Bobcats fell to the Orlando Magic in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
The Nets were forced to slightly overpay for Wallace because they sent their first-round pick to the Blazers and they were hoping to bring point guard Deron Williams back. With a core of newly acquired Joe Johnson, center Brook Lopez, Williams, and Wallace, the Nets felt like they could compete with the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls for supremacy in the Eastern Conference. The 12-year veteran out of the University of Alabama struggled with injuries as he averaged 7.7 points per game and shot less than 40% from the floor. The Nets suffered a disappointing first-round exit at the hands of the Bulls in seven games.
During this past summer, the Nets cut ties with Wallace just one year after they hoped Wallace could help bring them a championship. The Nets and Celtics agreed to a blockbuster swap. The Celtics received Wallace, Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, and three first-round selections for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry. This move represented two franchises going in different directions. The Celtics were looking to rebuild their roster with a younger nucleus after they shipped former head coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers. Also, the Celtics were trying to get under the salary cap because of the restrictions from the new CBA. Meanwhile, the Nets are trying to bring back fans they lost after they traded away franchise players like Jason Kidd and Vince Carter from last decade.
Wallace and the Celtics hope that Wallace does not hit the injury bug. Wallace needs to prove that he is healthy and he can be an effective player on his fifth team so other teams won’t pause when they talk trade with the Celtics. The flip side is that Wallace needs to reinvent himself after his struggles in Brooklyn. The 6-foot-7-inch forward was an All-Star in 2010 with the Bobcats and he developed into a solid player on both ends of the court. He averaged 18.2 points and 10 rebounds in 2009-’10. Since Wallace is 31 years old and he relies on his speed and athleticism, he is seen as an aging player who can no longer carry a team.
There is a chance if Wallace can display his skills and not miss any action on the court, there could be a team who looks at him as a missing piece in their run for a championship. He has looked impressive in Celtics camp. New head coach Brad Stevens praised Wallace for his effort and leadership after the Celtics came out flat in a preseason defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers on October 11th. Wallace did sit out the 97-95 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night for rest since it was the Celtics’ sixth game in nine days.
Stevens has been rotating players during the preseason, but Wallace is expected to contribute valuable minutes and help the Celtics’ young players like Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, and Kelly Olynyk develop.
His showcase will come when the regular season begins in Toronto on October 30th. Then Wallace can attempt to erase any doubts about his age and being slowed by injuries.