It has been a tough offseason for veteran forward Gerald Wallace. He was traded away from a contending team in Brooklyn to a rebuilding situation with the Celtics and after being the last player to report to camp, the preseason must have him anything but excited for the upcoming season. After the team’s most recent loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, Wallace could not hold back his frustration. He led the team with 16 points as the Celtics lost the game 104-89, their sixth loss in seven appearances, but his damning assessment of the game will resonate with the team longer than the result.
Wallace pulled no punches as he was asked about the teams’ latest loss.
“Guys are out there being selfish and their opponents are playing with effort, giving their all regardless of how the night is going” he told CSNNE’s A. Sherrod Blakely. “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).”
We have heard nothing but positive reports from the Celtics’ coaching staff about Wallace since his arrival in Boston. The 12-year veteran has displayed outstanding energy throughout the preseason and has received rave reviews from his work in practice; however, that effort does not appear to be rubbing off on his younger teammates.
“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 has seen it all in his NBA career and playing a role on a rebuilding team is nothing new for the 31-year-old. For more than six seasons, he toiled with the Charlotte Bobcats, a team he joined in the expansion draft of 2004 right up until he was able to lead them to a debut playoff appearance in 2010. He has always been a player that leads by example, rather than someone known as a vocal leader but he has never held back when he had questions over his team’s effort. As recently as last season Wallace blasted his Brooklyn teammates after a loss to the Bucks saying, “Guys are content with the situation we are in, and I’m [expletive]-ing pissed off about us losing, especially losing the way we are losing.”
The preseason has not provided much in the way of hope for Celtics’ fans for 2013-14. A 1-6 record, inconsistent play, two losses by a single basket and more rotation changes than you can count. As new coach Brad Stevens adjusts to the NBA game and the young Celtics find their place in the league, the Celtics will rely on their veterans like Wallace to lead them through what could be a long season. If we have seen anything from Gerald Wallace in the past, or even from his brief time in Boston thus far it is that he will leave it all on the floor each night and as long as his teammates turn up with the same attitude, the record is not as important.
As the regular season looms just around the corner, Wallace remains concerned over the state of his new team.
“We got what, one more preseason game before this thing really starts up?” Wallace said. “So if guys think they can wait until the Toronto game (on Oct. 30) and turn the switch on, it’s not that easy in this league. You have to start building yourself up, get some momentum going into it. We’re not doing that right now.”
These aren’t just words from a frustrated player after a loss, this is coming from a guy that would know. Someone that has never let effort be an excuse for a loss regardless of how poor the roster around him was. These young Celtics could learn a lot from Gerald Wallace for as long as he remains in Boston, as long as they try to match his effort and intensity on the floor. With three seasons and more than $30 million left on his contract, Wallace is going to be a hard piece for general manager Danny Ainge to move and as much as both parties would probably like to see Wallace traded to a contender sooner rather than later, he may be stuck in Boston at least through this upcoming season.
The team apparently had one of their best practices immediately after Wallace’s comments and will no doubt come out playing hard in their final preseason game on Wednesday which, coincidently will be against Wallace’s former team, the Nets. No matter how hard he tries, how many comments he makes, the Celtics aren’t likely to achieve a great deal this season, but it is essential they get their young players acting professionally, playing hard and giving effort in every aspect of the game as soon as possible. Wallace is one of the best examples of how working and playing hard every night can take you to the heights of the NBA, while it may be frustrating for him to have wound up on yet another rebuilding team, his new teammates could, and should, learn a lot from him in regards to effort, intensity and life in the NBA.