First, I'll admit something. I intended to write this article about a long list of NBA veterans that became disgruntled with a team only for the player and team to both stick it out together and turn around that veteran's career.
Turns out that doesn't happen so often.
Plus, that isn't really what Wallace needs to do. In truth he isn't really disgruntled (yet). His comments in the press expressed frustration with the play of the team on the court, which was kind of understandable. He also may have been frustrated with his own dwindling skills. In 11 less games with the Celtics than with the Nets the prior year, Wallace's averages looked like this:
30.1 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.6 APG, .7 BPG, 1.4 SPG
24.4 MPG, 5.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, .2 BPG, 1.3 SPG
Even before Wallace came to the Celtics his skills were already diminishing. Plus, what are often looked at as the "hustle" skills really didn't regress that much. There was a negligible drop in steals, and only .5 less blocks per game and .9 less rebounds per game. Just about one less "hustle play" per game because he was mailing it in? Nah. Just as likely he didn't have the opportunity for that play since he was playing about 6 minutes less per game.
So what I was really looking for was someone that was unhappy and/or had a diminishing skill set. This time, when I no longer restricted myself to the same team, I got a much longer list.
I'll first skip through the guys that I don't see as having much to do with Wallace:
Stars like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony became pretty famously disgruntled over their lack of success and forced their ways onto better teams. I think we can all agree that Wallace is nowhere near as talented as any of these players. Stephen Jackson, Andre Miller and Mo Williams have also forced their ways off of teams where they were unhappy, to go on to success at their new teams. While their talent level was similar to Gerald Wallace's (at least his talent level at one point), I think we can all agree that the Celtics are unlikely to find a trade partner for Wallace at this point.
So is there any possibility of Gerald Wallace being relevant for the Celtics other than as take two of Theo Ratliff's expiring contract?
While you may not remember it, Chauncy was prepared to go defcon 4 on whatever team picked him up off of waivers in 2011 when he publicly declared he would throw a hissy fit. The league had to warn him about trying so little he breached his contract. Imagine his dismay when the Clippers picked him up. That dismay could only be overshadowed by his joy when the Clips got Chris Paul 4 days later. While Chauncy endured a bad team for 4 days (hardly enough to make yourself too much of a pain) rather than 12 months like Wallace, there is a possible example to be taken from his years with the Clippers. He suffered through injuries in his time with the Clippers and had very little time on the team as a truly useful NBA player, but managed through that time to win an award for being a good teammate. Yes, that is a real thing. Interesting how being on a good team helps, isn't it.
Much earlier in his career, Vince belonged in the list above of players too good to be mentioned with Gerald Wallace. In 2011, however, Carter's ship had not quite sunk, but had taken on a good deal of water. The former superstar signed a 3 year deal with the Mavericks that only guaranteed one year. In the NBA, only the desperate sign non-guaranteed contracts. Carter continued his steady slump to 10.1 PPG and 3.4 RPG in his first year with the Mavericks. However, in year two, his PPG, RPG and shooting percentages all increased, while playing 81 games without his MPG changing at all. To put it simply, in his 15th year in the league, with presumably a declining skill set, Vince Carter played much better. Arguably, he played better than he had two seasons prior.
I won't belabor this point. Anyone that watched the NBA last year knows that Livingston played great last year for the Nets. Anyone that watched the NBA before last year knows that he had a horrific knee injury, was a shell of his former self, and was unlikely to ever be good again. There was a void at his position with Deron Williams all of a sudden forgetting how to play basketball and Livingston improbably played very well in the 9th year of his career.
Hey, remember that really big guy we wanted this summer? Remember we wanted him because he didn't like playing second fiddle to Dwight Howard? His trade demand was public. The Rockets' inability to get what they wanted for him was just as public. Turns out, he didn't play so bad despite completely hating being there. Given that his minutes were slashed, his 5.8 PPG and 7.9 RPG last year were pretty respectable. His shooting percentage stayed up, his blocks minimally came down and I can remember several big plays he made for the Rockets down the stretch. Once again, his team was good, which helps.
While I will readily admit that for every story like the ones above, there are 20 Andrew Bynum or Raja Bell stories where the player gets upset or stops playing well and that is the last we hear of them (although Bynum seems to be the gift that just keeps giving). But it is possible Gerald Wallace becomes useful for the Celtics this year.
So if Gerald is useful for the Celtics, what does that look like?
Wallace's best NBA skills during his peak were his hustle and grit. He had no hesitation to dive on the floor for a loose ball or throw himself into the lane on a drive. This led to Wallace missing a lot of games, but was also what was great about him. Surprisingly, given his advanced years, Wallace still seems to have this fearlessness and hustle. Given his MPG, Wallace's steal numbers are actually still pretty high. He ranked 17th in the league in steals per 48 minutes last year (Phil Pressey ranked 4th!). Wallace also knows how the NBA works and displays a pretty good amount of NBA savvy. This savvy and hustle are exactly what I would want the youngsters around if I were the Celtic brass. Be a good teammate like Billups, grit your teeth and work through a situation you don't like similar to Asik and a career rejuvenation on a smaller scale than Carter or Livingston would be nice. That sounds exactly like what I would ask for from my veteran backup SF.
Let me know if you disagree or if you think of a player I missed who was disgruntled and/or declining in skills and turned it around on their current team in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!