It has become increasingly hard to keep anything under wraps in professional sports with endless blogs and the immediacy of Twitter. You would assume that NBA players are more connected than the average member of the media, but that isn’t always the case.
Gerald Wallace, known to remove himself from the basketball grid during the offseason, spent the summer with family and friends back home in Alabama as the rumor mill churned. Even if Wallace opted to avoid trade speculation, you would assume that his agent [Rob Pelinka] would give him a heads up that he might be on the move.
That doesn’t appear to have been the case.
“I’m basically sitting at home with family and friends, playing some cards and getting ready to watch the NBA Draft. Then bam. It hits the screen,” Wallace said of how he learned the Brooklyn Nets were trading him to the Boston Celtics. “I didn’t know anything about it. It caught me off guard and put me in shock. You sit back and look at yourself and wonder what you did.”
Wallace was absent when the Celtics introduced newcomers Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and Keith Bogans on July 15, leading to speculation that the trade upset the forward.
“Being traded is a process that nobody likes to go through. It caught me off guard,” Wallace explained when asked why he missed the introductory press conference. “It was right in the middle of my camp, so I already had an obligation to those kids. I was unable to come to the press conference. I also felt it was an opportunity to spend more time with the kids.”
Whether or not Wallace was, or is, bitter about moving from Brooklyn to Boston, he had a legitimate excuse to stay in Alabama. The Fourth Annual Gerald Wallace Foundation Alabama Basketball Camp ran from July 8-19.
“The situation had nothing to do with Boston, me coming to Boston. I’m happy to be here,” he added. “I’ve always loved to come to the city and I’m a Red Sox and Patriots fan, so I’m closer to my teams. I’m happy to be here and I want to be here. It’s kind of hard, being in the league for 13 years and coming to a place where you have to start over, but for me it’s a challenge.”
Wallace spoke to the media for more than eight minutes at the Celtics’ practice facility in Waltham, Mass. on Monday afternoon. Wallace was seemingly trying to convince himself that he was happy with the new situation. He isn’t known to be big on smiles, but often times he started a response by professing happiness before pointing to the fact that the rebuilding process is tough for a 31-year-old with 12 years of service under his belt.
“I very happy to be here, especially with these guys that are looking for a fresh start here. Coach [Brad] Stevens is a fresh coach. I think the main thing that people have taken out of this is that I didn’t want to come, I didn’t want to be here, I didn’t want to be a part of it, but that’s so far from the truth,” Wallace said.
“I think the main thing is that me being a veteran, I’ve been traded three times in the last three, four years, but this trade kind of caught me off guard.”
On the court, Wallace played in 69 games (68 starts) for the Nets last season. He averaged just 7.7 points, his lowest since the 2003-04 season with the Sacramento Kings. He added 4.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals to his line, shooting 39.7% from the field -- the second lowest percentage of his career.
“It’s hard,” Wallace said of his reduced numbers last year. “I played on a team with three All-Stars. My role on that team wasn’t to score. My role was to go out every night and guard the opponent’s best player. I felt I did a pretty good job with that. It’s the NBA, you can’t stop anybody you just have to contain them, but I think I did a good job. Offense wasn’t my main focus, I think we had enough guys to do that.”
Wallace has the most NBA experience on Boston’s roster and with Kevin Garnett gone, you might assume that he would become the defensive leader of the Celtics. Far from the vocal player Garnett is, Wallace doesn’t want to draw comparisons.
“Not to take anything away from our team, but I don’t think we’ll be like those KG-led defenses,” he said. “We are still in the process. On top of that, they had a system. Doc Rivers had a system. We are coming in with coach Stevens and the new staff, players and we have to embrace these new ideas. It’ll be an adjustment for all of us.”
Wallace has been a part of young teams before, he spent seven seasons with the Charlotte Bobcats after three years in Sacramento, so he knows the types of growing pains the Celtics will have to endure.
“The hardest part about it is getting everybody to buy into the system,” he said. “When you play with a bunch of guys that are just coming into the league, they are into their own game. A lot of the guys play for themselves and for their future contracts rather than buying into the system. When I was young, with Chris Webber and Vlade Divac, those guys taught me to buy into the team and if the team succeeds it helps you when it’s time to negotiate your next contract. That’s the kind of thing I’ll talk to the young guys about. You are only as good as your team is doing.”
Rajon Rondo is the unquestioned leader of the team, but Wallace will have to take on somewhat of a mentoring role as well. Garnett and Paul Pierce helped keep the mercurial point guard in check when necessary and Brad Stevens will turn just 37 in late October. It seems like Wallace, who just arrived in Boston over the weekend, still needs to adjust to his new situation.
“It’s very hard. As a veteran you never want to be with a team that’s starting the rebuilding process. Your main focus is trying to get somewhere where you can end your career on a championship note,” he said.
“I’m happy to be here. Like I told the guys, a championship is what I want, but I’ve never won a championship in my life. So, my life isn’t based on championships, it’s based on a successful career, having fun, enjoying the game and going out on a positive note. If I can come in here and build with this team, help get us back into contention and push forward from there, then I’ll be happier than with a team winning a championship.”
Wallace may eventually adjust to the rebuilding situation in Boston, but it was abundantly clear on Monday that he is still trying to accept a trade that was finalized more than two months ago.