Gerald Wallace’s 3 for 15 shooting in the Brooklyn Nets' two first-round losses to the Chicago Bulls isn’t helping his team’s cause, but all those missed shots aren’t nearly as destructive as the dozens of other possessions the Nets run with Wallace on the court. For two games, the Bulls have been just about ignoring Wallace on the floor, an unfortunate end result in a season that has seen Wallace’s offensive game fall off the face of the earth.
Following the Nets’ tough Game 3 loss on Thursday, Wallace spoke to New York Daily News beat reporter extraordinaire Stefan Bondy, and shared his frustration with a gig gone wrong:
“I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you my role now,” Wallace said Friday at the team’s hotel in Chicago. “I don’t have a clue what my role is on this team.”
What’s striking about a line like this is that it doesn’t appear as if Wallace is complaining. He’s seemed genuinely frustrated and flummoxed by his current status, and the stasis is wearing on him. Wallace hasn’t been able to leak out in transition as he did so well during Saturday’s Game 1 win over Chicago (one that saw him put up 14 points on 5 for 7 shooting), and his attempts in the two losses since have either come on missed 3-pointers (he’s hit 1 of 6) or misspent drives into a closed-off lane.
To interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo’s credit, he handled the quote in stride. Here’s his discussion with Bondy:
“I think we’re going through a tough time right now and that’s what playoffs are all about,” Carlesimo said. “We’re all frustrated. And we have to — I have to — do a better job of constantly defining roles and redefining roles so we perform the way we’re capable of performing.”
Carlesimo went on to say he has considered changing the starting lineup to alleviate some of the pressure that a forward combo featuring Wallace and Reggie Evans puts on his teams scoring triptych of Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Joe Johnson. The Nets made a comeback on Thursday night with an offense-first rotation in the fourth quarter against Chicago, but that’s no panacea. Here’s P.J., speaking again with Bondy:
“And not just say, ‘to hell with it, let’s just put an offensive team out there.’ Because that’ll get you in trouble where all of a sudden we’re not as good defensively anymore. We’re not as good rebounding anymore. By the fourth quarter last night, we had to score points. Whether we get that dramatically where we have to change the lineup five minutes into the game, I don’t know. But it’s certainly a concern going forward.”
And, as we noted in our discussion on Carlesimo’s contributions on Thursday afternoon, starting Andray Blatche, MarShon Brooks, or Kris Humphries in an offensively minded setup would still mean that Wallace has to make an appearance on the court at some point during a 48-minute game. The problem with Brooklyn’s offense still isn’t going away, and it remains to be seen whether a lineup featuring Blatche and/or Humphries (all full of turned heads, defensively) can holds its own against Chicago’s offense.
The Bulls usually can’t shoot straight, and Lopez was masterful defensively on Thursday with seven blocks, but Chicago eats poor defenders alive with the team’s extra passing.
Wallace is a fantastic defender, which is why he’ll remain in the lineup and stay hopeful for those fast break forays. In terms of his half-court role, though, we’re right there with him. The lone 3-pointer he’s hit in the two Brooklyn losses came when Carlesimo called for him to curl to the top of the arc, and yet Wallace is still asked to flatten to the corners just about every time down court.
If that’s Gerald’s role, it’s easy to see why he’s as confused as we are.