Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — If you attend a Nets practice or otherwise catch members of the team in conversation, you’ll rarely hear anyone refer to Gerald Wallace by his real name.
He has affectionately become known as “Crash,” mainly because of the reckless way with which he plays the game.
Durable and reliable, Wallace’s constant sacrificing of his body has made a difference for his team and has earned him the affection of anyone who enjoys watching hard working and hustling.
On Friday night, Joe Johnson hit a 23-footer over the Detroit Pistons Tayshaun Prince to give the Nets a 107-105 victory in double overtime. He’ll receive the credit for giving the Nets the win, and rightfully so.
But had it not been for the reckless abandon and heart exhibited by Crash, Johnson probably would have never even had the opportunity to make any meaningful shots down the stretch because the game may have been over. Johnson was the hero, but even he appreciates everything Wallace does for the Nets.
“He’s a great blue-collar worker,” Johnson said. “A lot of the things he does just don’t show up on the stat sheet. Tonight, he had big rebound after big rebound and he was big for us tonight,” he said after the Nets defeated the Pistons.
Deron Williams agrees. “He’s our energy, our life,” he said of Wallace. “We had a lot of mistakes out there and he kind of covered up for them on the defensive end, coming up with huge blocks and steals, just big plays. He does everything for us.”
Johnson made the two biggest shots in the first and second overtime for the Nets, but it was Wallace’s cleaning up of his miss in the fourth quarter that forced overtime in the first place. Wallace got an offensive rebound after Johnson missed a nine foot jumper. With 20.7 seconds remaining in regulation, he stuck it back in and tied the game.
“That left handed tip was pretty impressive,” Avery Johnson said afterward. “I don’t even think we make it to overtime tonight with Gerald Wallace.”
I think coach Johnson is correct.
Wallace, who’s only averaging 11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game is still rounding into shape and finding his groove within the Nets offense. On Friday, though, he shot 9-for-15, scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
More importantly, though… and perhaps more impressively, was the fact that Wallace threw himself around the floor, dove for every loose ball and had two particularly gruesome falls during the game. His thuds reverberated through the arena for most of the night.
“I’m just trying to win and trying to do whatever I can do to help the team win,” Wallace said. “Whether that’s getting rebounds, getting steals, or blocking shots.”
When asked if he considers the pain he inflicts on himself when playing, Wallace responded very simply. “I don’t think,” he said. “I can’t play thinking. Whatever happens, happens. I don’t worry about it.”
And heading into Friday night’s battle with the Pistons, he knew that the Nets needed a win, especially at home and especially after losing four straight at Barclays Center. “At home, the way we’ve been playing, we’re trying to get our momentum back and our confidence back,” he said. “As a team, whatever we can do to move forward is what’s needed.”
After ending the home losing streak and welcoming Brook Lopez back to the line up, moving forward is actually what the 13-9 Brooklyn Nets want to do. With a healthy starting five, they should be able to.