Wallace is Making Quiet Impact on Celtics

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

WALTHAM, Mass. – Have you watched Gerald Wallace with an unbiased, keen eye this season? You’re missing out if your answer is no.

Wallace has been fantastic for the Celtics through the first five games of 2013-14. He has put aside the desire to score 20 points or notch a double-double in favor of doing the little things to help Boston win basketball games.

Gerald Wallace defends Tayshaun Prince

Gerald Wallace has been excellent on defense this season while sacrificing his numbers for the sake of the team.
Andy Lyons/NBAE/Getty Images

The 13-year veteran will head into Friday’s matchup with Orlando averaging 6.2 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game, 2.4 assists per game and 2.4 steals per game. He’s also shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from 3-point range.

Those shooting percentages are great, but the overall numbers aren’t going to jump off of a stat sheet to anyone. Still, though, Wallace is making a major impact on the floor.

Wallace has lived up to his reputation as a hard-nosed basketball player who defends with the best of them. He’ll sacrifice his body at any given moment, and he’ll dig in on defense against anyone who wants to try to take him down.

In short, Wallace has a message for you if you plan on challenging him on the court: Good luck.

Wallace’s defensive rating this season has been phenomenal. Synergy Sports rates him as an excellent defender who has allowed just 0.66 points per possession during his 53 defensive plays. Those ratings are in the ballpark of what Avery Bradley did last season, when he was an NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection.

Defense like that should never go unnoticed. Yet what are many outsiders harping on? Wallace’s lack of field goal attempts and points.

Inside the locker room, it’s a far different story. Wallace is gaining attention from his teammates and coaches for his unselfish and hard-nosed style of play. Brad Stevens, for one, noticed those traits in Wallace from the moment he met him about six weeks ago.

“My wife will tell you, when I first met Gerald, I said from Day 1, ‘That’s my type of guy in a lot of ways,’” Stevens said. “First and foremost, I appreciate his blue-collar attack on the basketball court.”

Wallace’s teammates are also taking notice of his style and personality. They’ve seen him put the team ahead of himself since the moment he showed up on the Celtics’ practice campus in Waltham, Mass.

“I could tell the first day he came in here that he’s all about the team,” said Bradley. “He wants to see everybody do well, and whatever he can do to help the team win games, that’s what he wants to do.”

Wallace is accomplishing that goal this season by making sacrifices in many statistical categories. Though he’s playing more than 32 minutes a night, he’s not a focal point of the offense. Wallace, however, doesn’t care one bit. Heck, he just gracefully accepted a demotion to the second unit Wednesday night after starting the first four games of the season.

“I think each player in the NBA has got to sacrifice a little bit of their game, and he sacrifices a lot,” said Jeff Green. “Coming off the bench, the minutes he’s playing, his style of play… he sacrifices a lot. It shows true ownership of his character and you can never question who he is.”

Regardless of whether Wallace is starting and taking 20 shots, or if he’s coming off the bench and taking five, he’s going to remain the same man. He’s going to be that blue-collared basketball player that his teammates and coaches have come to know and love – the player that puts the name ‘Celtics’ ahead of the name ‘Wallace.’

"I’m here for the team,” Wallace said following Wednesday night’s victory over the Jazz, “and whatever the team needs me to do to win is what I’ll do."

Right now, that’s picking his spots on offense, shutting opponents down on defense, and being the best teammate around. That might not sound sexy, but sexy doesn’t always win games. Team basketball does, and that’s exactly what No. 45 brings to the table every day of the week.

Do yourself a favor and watch Gerald Wallace throughout Friday night’s matchup with the Orlando Magic. You’ll walk away impressed.