Gerald Wallace always knew he could play in the NBA; it just seemed that he was destined to sit on the bench for the Sacramento Kings, stuck on the wrong side of an already set roster rotation.
However, Wallace exhibited a patience that is out of his character and was rewarded when the expansion Charlotte Bobcats swiped Wallace away from the Kings in the NBA Supplemental Draft.
Wallace was determined to seize the opportunity and set out to make his mark in Charlotte by displaying a relentless, if un-polished set of athletic skills that left observers wondering how he managed to sit on the bench for so long.
He wasn't considered much of a player, but he did have potential and a niche for seemingly being in almost every play. Even more importantly, he was selfless, ready to sacrifice his body for the sake of the team.
Due to his superior athleticism and his 6'8" frame, he was able to learn the game from the perspective of various positions. Although he would be most comfortable at the small forward position, he learned the shooting guard and power forward positions also.
His willingness to absorb instruction, coupled with his desire for the game, made Wallace a coach's dream. The carousel of coaches that have passed through Charlotte have confirmed as much, saying Wallace was the ultimate team player.
All of these attributes have helped shape Wallace into a great player who rarely gets the recognition or accolades that a player with his numbers and abilities should be receiving.
He currently averages 17.9 points per game, 11.9 rebounds per game, two assists, nearly two steals, almost one block, and shoots 46 percent from the field. Those are the type of numbers that all-stars are made of.
His 11.9 rebounds per game is fourth in the NBA, impressive in itself, but the fact that he averages nearly two steals and a block is more impressive to me. There are some centers that don't average one block per game, and his steals average means that he's always in the passing lane.
He throws his body around so much that he's earned the nick-name "crash" from Charlotteans, and there is at least one instant in every game where he justifies it's use.
Despite his stellar play, he's still learning, which is a scary thought if you already consider how skilled he is. The tutelage of coach Larry Brown has left it's marks on Wallace and you can notice a definite improvement in his overall game as well as specific honing of elements that needed work.
Wallace's offense has always been rudimentary at best, but this season, his shot-selection has improved and now his forays to the basket are done with a purpose instead of a means to an end.
Wallace would often find himself stuck in the lane after penetrating with no outlet to pass, and this would often lead to bad shots or turnovers. Now he penetrates to kick the ball out or he goes to the rim hoping to draw fouls.
His shooting percentage has improved, his free-throw percentage is higher, and he has become one of the better man to man defenders in the NBA. Unfortunately, it seems that no one outside of Charlotte has noticed.
Wallace doesn't get any of the all-star push that other players receive, and even though he has much better all-around numbers than most of his peers, his name is rarely mentioned when discussing the league's best players.
A big part of the equation is the fact he plays for Charlotte, a small market team, which gets very little national exposure, and until this season, wasn't very competitive in terms of the postseason.
But Wallace has teamed with new-comer Stephen Jackson to give the Bobcats a formidable one-two punch and they currently have Charlotte in the thick of the playoff chase.
Still, the recognition is slow to come and the sad reality is Wallace won't be an all-star participant unless he is chosen by the coaches, who are known to go with their own players when they have the chance.
The irony in Wallace's situation is striking because he longed for a chance to receive starting minutes, and once he got them and produced impressive numbers, his work has gone mostly un-noticed by the masses.
To his credit, Wallace says the recognition is not important, and once Charlotte does make the playoffs, the world would be forced to pay attention anyway, which is a pretty true summary.
True, but it is still inadequate because his play deserves much more attention and Wallace should be recognized as a premier player in the league.
If Josh Smith can achieve the level of superstar then so should Wallace, a player who lacks Smith's athleticism, but is more polished and perhaps means more to the fortunes of his team.
If Wallace is able to push his Bobcats into the NBA playoffs, he should at least get consideration for All-NBA. They have three teams and a host of honorable mentions, and hopefully Wallace will be able to find his way on to one of those lists.