In a way, ever game Gerald Wallace has played with the Trail Blazers has been a road game. With his family still in Charlotte, Wallace comes "home" to an empty hotel room regardless of where the game is played. That's never an easy thing to do. And when you have a performance like the one Wallace had in Game 1, the idea of being alone with your thoughts and thousands of miles away from your loved ones is excruciating.
Though that wasn't the case Saturday night. With the team staying for an extended period of time in Dallas, players and coaches were allowed to bring their significant others along for the trip, something that is usually advised against (and not practical even if it weren't) during regular season road trips. Gerald, who hasn't seen his family since the Trail Blazers were in Charlotte to take on the Bobcats more than a month ago, went one step further, flying his wife, oldest son, youngest daughter and brother to Dallas for the first two games of the first-round series.
And it's a good thing he did. After the Game 1 loss, Wallace desperately needed something to take his mind off of a performance he described as "horrible." And that's just what his family did.
"(Being with your family) takes your mind off of the games at certain points, especially (Saturday night)," said Wallace. "Tough game for me, didn't play well, but kids have a way of always making you smile. Kind of put that game behind me and helped me look forward to the next one."
I saw firsthand the soothing affect the Wallace clan has on their patriarch, and on the team in general. After Saturday night's game, Wallace's wife was waiting in the lobby with their son and daughter, both done up in cornrows like their daddy, as the team exited the bus. Even if they hadn't been at the game, Wallace says they would have known how it went just by looking at him.
"They can tell when I'm upset," said Wallace. "My whole demeanor changes, so they pretty much know, especially my daughter. She doesn't know what's really going on, but she knows when my demeanor changes."
After hellos and hugs, Gerald's son asked if he could go talk to LaMarcus Aldridge, who was walking to the elevators frustrated with the result of the game and annoyed with two adult men who asked to take their picture with him despite not having any idea who he was (he allowed the two to take the picture nonetheless). Young Wallace tugged on Aldridge's shirttails to get his attention and as LaMarcus looked down to see what new annoyance had befallen him, his face instantly softened at the sight of a boy who was obviously the offspring of his fellow forward.
After offering up some quick words of encouragement, young Wallace joined his family at the elevator. As they rode up together, Gerald asked his daughter, who was chatting about something or rather, 'Do you want to go to bed?' in the thinly-veiled, half-threatening tone that every parent has employed at one time or another. She looked up and meekly replied that she didn't, probably thinking she had upset her father, when in actuality, she had given him exactly what he needed: the chance to be a dad once again.
"When you go home and you're there by yourself, you keep overplaying it and keep rethinking the game and everything," said Wallace. "That's a lot harder to do when you have kids. You go home and your kids take the attention off the game. Like my daughter said 'Daddy it's OK. We'll win tomorrow.' Simple things like that kind of keep you going and get you focused for the next game.
"Especially (Saturday) night, that was something that I needed. After the way I played I wanted to get as far away from basketball as possible. My son loves to watch SportsCenter and I didn't even let him watch SportsCenter. I told him I didn't want to watch nothing that had to do with sports. Just wanted to do something to get away from it."
Gerald's family, simply by being within arms reach, provided that something. Though he had one of his worst performances as a Trail Blazers in his most important game since joining the team, having his family by his side, rather than a continent away, saved him from the depths of despair. That could very well ensure his Game 1 performance is not repeated.