Gerald Wallace possesses elite athleticism, even for an NBA player, but you’d hardly know it sometimes. His physical prowess is often on display when going toe-to-toe with the likes of Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant all within a 72-hour window, but when it comes showing off his vertical, Wallace chooses, more often than not, to play it low. Part of that can be attributed to his down-to-earth, understated southern swagger, with yet another factor being self-preservation. The guy hits the hardwood more frequently than just about any player in the league, so any activity that might lead to yet another collision with the court is avoided like grim death.
Wallace is often times so averse to finishing above the rim that he makes plays more difficult than they have to be, if he’s able to finish them at all. There have been numerous occasions during this young season in which Wallace has tried to tip the ball in rather than slamming it home, and with mixed results.
But after a few such instances in which his chip shots unceremoniously rimmed out during Thursday night’s victory against the Lakers at the Rose Garden, Wallace completely what is currently Portland’s most impressive dunk of the season. After seeing Wallace perform simple layups in most fastbreak situations, not many could have expected “Crash” to perform a breakaway windmill dunk, made possible by a three-quarter-court pass from Marcus Camby, after a missed three-pointer by Bryant gave Wallace opportunity to get out in transition.
But by time the media was let into the Trail Blazers locker room postgame, Wallace had reverted back to sheepishness. When asked about the dunk, Wallace, who finished the night with 31 points, five rebounds and three steals, seemed more embarrassed than proud of his high degree of difficulty finish.
“Nah, don’t bring that up!” said Wallace. “Man, they already been killing me. Everybody.”
‘They” and “everybody,” of course, are his teammates, who know as well as anybody what Wallace is capable of physically. But they also know he doesn’t care for spectacle, which is why they opted to razz Wallace rather than congratulate him, a time-honored tactic when it comes to busting chops.
Even when given the opportunity to give himself a little pat on the back, Wallace chose to self-deprecate rather than self-congratulate.
“I was out there by myself for like two minutes,” said Wallace of his leak out, implying that he’d need an inordinate amount of time to perform any such aerial maneuver. “So I had time to get myself together. You know, wake my legs up, let 'em know what I was going to do.”
It’s becoming more and more easier these days to predict what Wallace is going to do, at least when it comes to overall performances. He’s been brilliant on both ends of the floor, save for an 0-fer night in Los Angeles against the Clippers, through the first six games, and seems to have really settled into his role as Nate McMillan’s second option on offense after LaMarcus Aldridge and his first option defensively on the wing.
“You’ve got to let Gerald go and allow him freedom to play,” said McMillan. “His hustle, his energy --- we feed off of that, just scrapping and making plays, rebounding the ball, starting the break as well as finishing on the break.”
Sometimes, those finishes are spectacular; though he’s not likely eschew simplicity for acrobatics very often. Or at least not until Aldridge does the same.
“LA promised me he was going to do (a windmill dunk), so I did that,” said Wallace. “So he owes me one. He's going to do a windmill, so ya'll be looking out for LA's windmill.”