Could Gerald Wallace be IT for the Nets?
by Julian Encarnacion
photo by Julian Encarnacion The Observer
The NBA trade deadline has gone and past after months of indecision from Dwight Howard, he remains the starting center for the Orlando Magic for at least one more season. Howard's trade demands and retractions have been well documented by various sports outlets throughout the entire year.
Dwight Howard's indecision is just the latest chapter in the Nets' series of unfortunate events that could lead to disastrous ones if Deron Williams leaves via free agency this summer. When the dust settled the Nets did acquire All-Star talent to help the team, by shipping the injury plagued Shawne Williams and Mehmet Okur along with a top 3 protected 2012 first round draft pick for Gerald Wallace.
Wallace immediately fills a hole the team has had for years. Ever since the Nets traded Richard Jefferson for Bobby Simmons and Yi Jianlian in 2008, New Jersey has seen a plethora of forwards fill the spot, many of who are no longer in the league. There has been Bobby Simmons, Jarvis Hayes, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Trenton Hassell, Terrence Williams, Travis Outlaw, Stephen Graham. This year alone three forwards who have been slotted at the small forward position in the starting lineup have experienced season ending injuries (Damion James, Shawne Williams, Keith Bogans). For the Nets their weakest position (DeShawn Stevenson and D-Leaguer Andre Emmett) may now have become their deepest with Wallace and the career resurgence of Gerald Green.
Wallace, nicknamed "Crash" for his relentless play on the court, has been in the league since 2001. He spent one year at the University of Alabama then was selected by the Sacramento Kings in the first round. After three years with the Kings, the Charlotte Bobcats picked Wallace in the expansion draft when they first entered the league. He spent seven years with the Bobcats and even made the All-Star team in 2010, until he was traded to the Portland Trailblazers last season. While in Portland Wallace was credited for injecting the team with a lot of passion and effort that resulted in their playoff run last year.
Wallace's numbers this year however seem to be in decline. While in Portland he averaged 13.3 points 6.6 rebounds and shot 47% from the field. At 15.5 Wallace's Player Efficiency Rating is the lowest it has been since his first year in Charlotte (14.1). Analysts attribute this to his advancing age (30 in July) and his deteriorating athleticism.
In five games with New Jersey, Wallace's numbers have seen a small uptick with him averaging 14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, however his unfamiliarity with the offense have him shooting only 36% from field. Wallace is shooting an improved 33% from behind the arc compared to the 26% he was shooting while with Portland. The 27 points Wallace scored versus the Cleveland Cavaliers in his second game with the Nets is his second highest point total of the season.
Wallace's presence has not translated to the win column for New Jersey just yet. In the five games that Wallace has played with the Nets, they have only won once. With Brook Lopez not scheduled to return for an additional two weeks and the Nets 8 ½ games behind the 8th seed Knicks with only 16 games left in the season, any hope for the playoffs are soon to be dashed.
Like with Deron Williams, there is no guarantee that Gerald Wallace will be with the team when they head to Brooklyn in the fall. Although unlikely, Wallace can decline his $9.8 million player option to become a free agent during the offseason.