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.


At 12/28/2006 2:09 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

the picture of that crab blows my fucking mind.

p.s. the broken toilet hose in Noixe's bathroom is the opposite of a sand dollar. the plumber did not understand.

At 12/28/2006 2:58 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

yeah, that crab is a stunner. he's even wearing the Bobcats colors.

i traded Gerald in fanball about two weeks ago after he went 9 straight games without a single block. it's still too painful to talk about.

At 12/28/2006 3:50 PM, Blogger seezmeezy said...

while i agree that wallace's dichotomy is fascinating, i suggest the following as a boring explanation:

dude can't shoot a jumper for shit.

my beloved zards couldn't guard the keyboard i am typing on if i threw it down the lane so i was not surprised that wallace torched tawn and friends when slashing to the lane. but i was kind of shocked that a dude that multi-talented has no perimeter game to fall back on when the lay-up lines are over.

comcast wordsmith phil chanier attributed the rise and fall in wallace's play to adrenaline levels. perhaps phil, perhaps.

wv pqatywg: the answer to a logic 101 exam question

At 12/28/2006 4:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My theory, with a sad tinge of Larry Brownish rightwayism is that Wallace has never learned how to play basketball, so against a team that allows him to just flow, and use his raw talents and skills, he shines. Against a team like Dallas, which through preparation forces you to be tighter with your game, he has very little to offer. It's not totally his fault, he played one year of college where he was he was the Energy Guy of the bench for a pretty decent team, then went to Sacto, where he mostly rode pine, and given the veteran nature of that team, it's hard to imagine their practices being much of a crucible. And then he went to an expansion team, where he was thrust on the court by default. And they suck so bad in general that it's hard to point to him and say "you need to improve this and that and then we'll start winning" because he could do it, and they'd still suck.

There are not all that many people who really succeed in the A without some degree of formedness to their games.* Even Gil, for all his extravagance, has a pretty put together offensive skill set.

* The players who come closest in my mind are Leandrinho and/or Marion. And based on Henry Abbot's take, perhaps AI as well...

P.S. Shoals, should be able to mail it tomorrow.

At 12/28/2006 4:09 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Once again I must proclaim the inadequacies of the bobcats coaching staff. They are probably as good as a decent high school staff at a large school. Or a poor staff at a junior college. Their inability to use G-Wallace to his potential is showing. Imagine G-Wallace on the Mavs, for instance. Do we believe that Avery Johnson could not get amazing and consistent play out of him? How about under crazy man phil jackson? Gerald Wallace is one of my favorite players in the league and that guy is just so poorly used. He is not put in a position to succeed. He does not know his role with his team because he doesnt have one.

At 12/28/2006 4:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The GW career arc is an odd one--sure-fire NBAer out of high school; college bust; typical new-era newjack in the NBA; underappreciated fantasy stud; important starter. I've never developed any personal connection to Wallace, although the early tales of his otherworld athleticism echo in my head.

You wrote that Arenas is a blog darling these days, and while it's true, I don't think it should be a pejorative. Unlike other fads and cult figures, Arenas has emerged in the last month as the best scorer in the league this year, and that's not insignificant. So while he may carry with him a heroic aura that is often wrongly conferred upon various figures by obsessive and funny bloggers, it is the product of genuine accomplishment.

You of all people surely do not need to be told of Gilbert, and I don't know that you meant for that aside to be dismissive, but I thought it might merit some attention because I wouldn't want the comment misconstrued.

wv: drsqb--Dr. Squabble

At 12/28/2006 4:33 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i am an nba snob, in the sense that many of us are music snobs. i thrive on feeling like i'm one of a select group of people who can appreciate these players. i will continue to tend the shrine to gilbert in my living room (JUST KIDDING), but watching wallace score 40 is in many ways more gratifying at this point.

and re: wallace's lack of a jump shot. what's amazing is that he doesn't even care about the game if he's reduced to that. how many players with 20ppg ability do you know of who routinely lose all interest in scoring? it's not just that his jumpshot is abysmal--he barely even tries them. if you get him far enough away from the lane, he's like a shark rolled over on its belly.

At 12/28/2006 5:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would David Lee be the arch nemesis of Gerald Wallace (or vice versa)? The former will give you 6 pts, 3 rbs, 0 blks, 1 stl one night and 20, 12, 4 and 3 the next. The latter will give you 11, 12, 1 and 1 each and every night. Did I mention I love David Lee? And why doesn't he get any press at Free Darko?

At 12/28/2006 5:42 PM, Anonymous youshoottoomuch said...

maybe GW just knows his game is limited and charlotte, and really everywhere he's been (high school included), hasn't made him work on it. but, really, would you rather he throw up fifteen jumpshots against a team keeping him out of the lane, a la so many "athletic" slashing 2/3/4's? i'm beginning to think disappearing is better than trying to be something you're not. i could name at least five players off the top of my admittedly not as filled with nba knowledge as most of FD head, but i say ricky davis or stephen jackson might be sort of anti-GW in that they will just continue to shoot when given the ball, often murdering their teams in the process. i also watch vince carter exhibit these tendencies. how does a team like the nets score 70 points repeatedly? because somewhere back in toronto vince carter became convinced that he could shoot fade away jump shots all night when he couldn't or didn't feel like getting in the lane.

At 12/28/2006 11:11 PM, Anonymous Amphibian said...

I actually dislike the whole NBA snob thing or any form of snobbery in the appreciative side of things. I am perfectly content if someone shows up knowing only the new club bangers and none of the thinking man's/critic's hip-hop, as long as they are honest about it.

If you know what a front screen is or the techniques of post footwork, good for you - you can appreciate the game on more levels. But that don't mean you are a better fan than an eleven year old ghetto youth infatuated with Bassy Telfair - just a more informed one.

And will y'all quit asking Shoals if [insert name here] is appropriately Free Darko - the whole point of Free Darko was that you don't have to accept the anointed ones and pablum shoved down your throats by the media. Make up your own minds.

Sam "I Am A GD Alien" Cassell fo lyfe, baybee.

WV: upwoc - what the Cambodian version of Bugs Bunny says to Elmer Fudd after "What's".

At 12/29/2006 12:03 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

amph--i don't know what a front screen is, so obviously that's not the kind of snobbery i'm talking about.

At 12/29/2006 12:11 PM, Blogger seezmeezy said...

hey shoals- i'm relieved that you were joking about the gil shrine. now mine is the only one.

i define art as the manifestation of struggling against limitation. if wallace simply gives up when he can't get to the lane, i very little art in his game. this makes me a snob of at least 2 genres, and frankly nothing could make prouder.

he also refused to sign an autograph as "G-Force" for my friend. i still don't know if that makes me like him more or less.

wv uakiqam: some weird university out in the congo

At 12/29/2006 2:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps he loses interest in his game's weaknesses because he is frozen in adolescence. Does a teenager embrace his vulnerabilities and work to protect them from shame? Not generally; he shrugs them off as 'stupid' and 'dumb', not to mention 'dumb and stupid'. Without a nurturing teacher to create a safe space for trying and failing, he'll never approach his frailties seriously.

One bright spot: next year's the contract year.

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