Way back in 2004, shortly after the Charlotte Bobcats selected him in the expansion draft, Gerald Wallace heard this from coach-general manager Bernie Bickerstaff:
Wallace was just an “OK basketball player when he was thinking what to do’’ but a dynamic one when he simply attacked.
Nearly a decade later Wallace still values that advice. Older, richer, but not nearly the athlete he was as a Bobcat, Wallace came off the bench for the Boston Celtics, scoring 17 points in a 96-86 victory over his former team.
“I had an extended talk with coach (Boston’s Brad Stevens). He said, ‘Just go out and play basketball the way you do,’ ” Wallace recalled of his season-high scoring.
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Wallace hit 6-of-10 from the field and 4-of-7 from the foul line. The Celtics bench outscored the Bobcats’ reserves 39-15, which Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said was the biggest difference in this game.
But not the only difference. The Bobcats committed 17 turnovers, topped by reserve point guard Ramon Sessions’ four. Well as the 7-8 Bobcats play defense this season, they’re not good enough offensively to be sloppy in their execution.
“We’re not going to be able to do that with our team – there’s not enough shooting,” Clifford said. “We’ve got to get to the foul line and not turn it over.”
The Bobcats greatly tested their margin for error Monday, taking fewer free throws (20 to 21), committing more turnovers (17 to 12) and being outscored at the 3-point line 27-9.
But specifically the game turned on Boston runs in the second and fourth quarters, with mostly Celtics reserves on the court.
“Our second unit did a great job – forced turnovers and took them out of what they want to do,” said Wallace.
Asked specifically what the Celtics took away, Wallace mentioned drives by Kemba Walker (28 points) and optimum post-up position by center Al Jefferson (14 points).
Wallace has played for Portland, Brooklyn and now the Celtics since leaving the Bobcats in a trade to the Blazers in the 2010-11 season. He says he loves Bobcats fans and thinks Charlotte is the best place in the NBA to live, but he’s still frustrated with the events surrounding the trade out of town.
“I was able to do something and all of a sudden it was gone. I was devastated,” Wallace said.
That was the start of a major makeover that rebuilt the team around drafting Walker and signing Jefferson to a 3-year, $41 million contract. Jefferson is the best low-post scorer in franchise history, but his integration into the offense has been slowed by various ankle injuries since the preseason.
Jefferson played his third straight game Monday and is on the mend.
“My ankle felt better than it’s ever felt’’ since the injury, Jefferson said, indicating he’s running better but still is somewhat limited jumping.