Cleansed FD Dreams
Allow me to drag you back from the precipice with something radiantly concrete. This past Tuesday, I had the good sense to watch Gerald Wallace take on the Dallas Mavericks in-person. Josh Howard positively sparkled, inching ever closer to becoming the league's most unlikely "unstoppable" player, the rest of the Mavs phoned it in, and the Bobcats were vivisected anyway. Save for one buoyant alley-oop, the Big GW was all but absent from the game. Fast forward to last night, when I finish my drive home, absent-mindedly flip on League Pass, and am confronted with the early birthday present of a Wallace/Arenas murderfest. Looking every bit like the player I've always imagined him to be, Multiplicity pulls a mini-Stoudemire in the paint and ends up with 40 points, 14 boards, 6 steals and 4 blocks. I watched the entire second half and can personally guarantee that his performance smelled just like that line.
Anyone who has read this site for more than fifteen minutes knows of my sterling fascination with Gerald Wallace. With Arenas now the darling of the blogosphere, and J.R. Smith about to be the most inflammatory three-point specialist since Craig Hodges, Wallace is the last of my cult favorites who still frolics within shade's boundaries. Sadly, most of this season has been a lost one for him, as he's struggled to find a place for himself within that increasingly crowded, but no less feckless, Bobcats gameplan. Because no one wants or needs to hear me drive verbal stakes through the limbs of Adam Morrison, suffice it to say that Charlotte does nothing to accommodate or facilitate Wallace's big-man-inside-a-small-man game. This, of course, is a shame, since he and Felton are the only two offensive factors any opposing team is the least bit concerned about. Seems to me that, any time you have a guy capable of generating that many scores, there should be some attempt made to run plays for him.
But based on two contrasting nights worth of data, I can also safely say that Wallace is only as useful as he is engaged. Against Dallas, he was guarded by Howard, the lane was unyielding, and he was often handling the ball at the top of the key. And when he drifts away from his bread and butter of narrow drives, reverses, and putbacks, his brain dissipates, too. When Wallace is forced to "settle" or adapt, he ceases to exist as a basketball-playing entity. To call him limited, flawed or non-committal totally misses the point: like few figures in this league, Wallace is an all-or-nothing phenomenon. Give him an inch and he's a star; force his hand and there's no struggle, no conflict, just plain old mediocrity. Hampered centers still tower and reach; diminished guards continue to gleam with appetite. Wallace, though, seems perfectly content to shoot rarely and stick his man dutifully unless he sees that light. And then, only with a surge in offense does he start acting like the defensive juggernaut his stats describe.
I'm not trying to attribute any great psychological complex to Wallace. If I knew a fucking thing about basketball, I would probably have available to me a fairly simple technical explanation for this. Yet as long as I remain stranded on my flat, burning yacht, I'll hold that Gerald Wallace's vast potential and occasional outsized showings are only heightened by this quirk. It reminds me of the story I once heard of a man whose brain alternated between genius level intelligence and retardation. When a series of tests were administered to him at regular intervals, the results made it appear as if two grossly dissimilar minds were switching places with each change in section. The contrast between the Wallace I saw this past night and the slackened mass that wore #3 at American Airlines Arena was absolute. This was Clark Kent and Superman, if Clark Kent lived in a shoebox and wrestled with snails, or The Hulk and Bruce Banner, were Banner's insides made of cheese and reckless surgery. Except in Wallace, the weaker of the two faces does not establish his humanity—rather, it only heightens his superhumanity.