Charlotte Bobcats' Gerald Wallace puts up a shot while being fouled by Cleveland Cavaliers' Anderson Varejao, from Brazil, during the second quarter in a NBA basketball game Sunday, Jan. 3, 2010, in Cleveland.
Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace, pictured here against New Jersey Nets defenders, is averaging 18.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, which might be good enough to make the East all-star team. JEFF SINER - email@example.com
The Charlotte Bobcats are oh-for-forever in terms of NBA all-stars.
They've never had a single representative qualify for the main event at the NBA all-star game, which this season is set for Feb.14 in Dallas.
That should change this season, however.
The Bobcats' Gerald Wallace should make the team.
Oh, Wallace won't make it as a starter, since fans vote for that. He's not even in the Top 10 among forwards in fan voting because the Bobcats fly so far under the average NBA fan's radar.
But Wallace deserves a spot as a reserve, voted into the game by the Eastern Conference coaches whose clubs he torches every night.
The reserves for the NBA all-star teams will be announced Jan.28, and it's very iffy as to whether Wallace will qualify. LeBron James and Kevin Garnett will be the starters at forward unless the fan vote changes dramatically. Chris Bosh and Paul Pierce will likely make the team as reserves (with Bosh possibly getting counted as a center, which could help Wallace). But there should be room toward the end of the bench for a player from a mid-level team like Charlotte who is in the midst of a career season.
"Would I like to be an all-star? Yes," Wallace said. "But I would love to be in the playoffs far more."
The last original Bobcat, Wallace has suffered through a whole lot of awful Bobcat teams. He considers this sixth Bobcats team to be the best one he has played on (not difficult, since the first five didn't make the playoffs). And there's no doubt Wallace, 27, is playing better than he ever has before heading into tonight's road game against the New York Knicks.
Wallace, who is averaging 18.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, sat out of Wednesday's practice due to general soreness. But he said there is no way he will miss tonight's contest.
"I'll play all 48 minutes if he lets me," Wallace said, referring to coach Larry Brown. "You know what makes me tired? Coming out of the game."
It's that sort of attitude, combined with his long-armed athleticism, that has made Wallace the Bobcats' most spectacular player since the team's inception in 2004. He has always been a dunking machine. He picked up his nickname "Crash" from the way he will fly to the basket with impunity, even if that assures a collision.
But Wallace has ratcheted his game up another notch this season, benefiting from a hall of fame coach in Brown and some swaggering new teammates in Stephen Jackson and Flip Murray. Wallace is fourth in the NBA in rebounding - a trait all coaches value and one that should separate Wallace from the other Eastern Conference forwards who score just as much or more than he does.
Said Brown of Wallace: "I've been doing this a long, long time. He's as good a teammate as I've ever coached. And he's figured it out. He rebounds every ball. He treats every shot like a missed shot. He doesn't take possessions off. He's improved his outside shot and his free throws. He doesn't gamble as much defensively. There's not one part of his game in which I haven't seen great growth."
Like most pro athletes, Wallace is confident. He and Michael Jordan get a verbal battle going whenever Jordan shows up at Bobcat games.
Jordan believes Wallace doesn't use his left hand enough. Wallace won't let Jordan forget a one-on-one matchup they had a couple of years ago at practice.
"I think I have the edge on him right now because the last time we played one-on-one, I won," Wallace said. "I'm still holding that over his head."
Jordan has a few things he can hold over Wallace's head, too, of course - six NBA championship rings, for instance.
Jordan made a bunch of NBA all-star teams, too. Wallace never has.
But if the NBA coaches do the right thing at the end of this month, that will change. Scott Fowler: 704-358-5140; firstname.lastname@example.org
Outsiders love to pound on the NBA for everything from the baggy shorts to tattoos, but I challenge a basketball lover anywhere to watch Wallace and not fall in love with his non-stop motor on the floor.