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Gerald Wallace goes off on Boston Celtics teammates after 104-89 loss to Minnesota Timberwolves

The Celtics are clearly a rebuilding team, and most teams would excuse even a contender for struggling in the preseason.

Gerald Wallace, however, does not suffer losses — preseason or regular — lightly. He has made this clear already earlier in the preseason, and according to several Celtics beat writers, his rant after Boston’s 104-89 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves was a special kind of rant.


Wallace’s comments are a pretty poignant reminder that whether or not we support Danny Ainge’s rebuilding strategy, the players on the floor are still professionals who take their jobs very seriously. It would be difficult to convince any NBA player to be part of a rebuild/tanking season, and for a 31-year-old vet like Gerald Wallace — who has always prided himself on maximum effort and throwing his body around for the good of the team, such a season must feel like a waste.

For my money, Wallace’s comments ignore a few obvious positives from tonight’s game. In the first half, the Celtics’ offense was working surprisingly well. The Wolves, a legitimately good team this year and likely a contender for one of the final playoff spots in a loaded Western Conference, were struggling to contain Boston’s transition game. The Celtics, for once, were able to push the ball and avoid turnovers (just 11 turnovers for the evening), and the result was that the Celtics trailed by just five as late as 3:29 in the third quarter.

But eventually, Minnesota’s talent was just too much for the overmatched Cs. Kevins Love and Martin combined for 43 points, and Martin split Boston apart with 5-for-8 shooting from 3-point range.

This will likely be a theme for the Celtics all season. Long stretches of middling-to-solid play could fall apart at a moment’s notice as a young team struggles to build the mental fortitude to stay in a game until the end. That development is a big part of the nebulous term “process” which we use frequently. Learning how to win is a process, and along the way, better teams like Minnesota will feast on the inexperience.

Wallace, however, would be excused for being a little too close to the fact to make the “process” distinction. It’s his job to perform at a high level, and to perform at a high level, he has always had to throw himself around the court like a possessed man, diving after loose balls (something we saw from him tonight), racing out in transition and banging around for rebounds. Frankly, he deserves better than to toil for a team that is going to finish well below .500.

But such is the curse of being well paid in today’s NBA. Any contender would be happy to have a player like Wallace along for the ride — someone willing to inject life and energy into a lineup, someone willing to make hustle plays, someone who will motivate underachieving players. These types are invaluable to a title run (think James Posey from 2008). Most contenders, however, are hard up against the luxury tax, and adding $10 million to their bill for a non-superstar player like Wallace just isn’t financially possible.

You could make the case that Wallace should shut up and accept his big paychecks, at which point I will make the case that you should stop talking about sports. Wallace is well-paid, but money doesn’t buy job satisfaction. It’s probably going to be a tough year for Crash.

Let’s do some bullet points from tonight’s game:

–Kelly Olynyk exited the game with 10:57 remaining in the second quarter and wouldn’t re-enter until the 3:26 mark in the third. He was 2-for-4 from the field with six rebounds in 19 minutes. His rebounding totals were solid, and he did a solid job positioning himself around the basket.

–Jared Sullinger was 0-for-3 from 3-point range tonight from behind the arc. I’ve defended his long-range shooting experiment because I like the spacing it would provide (and because, frankly, what’s he hurting this season?). But when 3-pointers make up nearly half his field goal attempts, he’s taking too many. He struggled against the height and strength of Wolves center Nikola Pekovic, who was able to counteract Sullinger’s strength and then some, but if Sully is taking this many 3-pointers going forward, something will need to change.

–Avery Bradley vs. Ricky Rubio turned out to be a fun match-up toward the end of the second quarter. Bradley’s pressure bothered Rubio, but Minnesota’s flashy point guard was creative enough to break the pressure several times.

–Jeff Green was aggressive early, driving the basket and taking good 3-pointers. Minnesota, however, made the adjustments we’ve been seeing from opponents all season and zeroed in on Green as Boston’s best offensive option. As a result, Green finished with a typical-for-his-preseason-thus-far line of 3-for-10 shooting, 1-for-5 from 3-point range. It’s worth noting, however, that his aggression did lead to seven trips to the free throw line.

–Vitor Faverani finished 3-for-6 with eight points. Most notable of his baskets was a nice spin move to the baseline and a left-handed hook shot.

–The team stats were generally unkind to the Celtics. The Wolves finished 40% from 3-point range to Boston’s 11.5% (awful), outrebounded the Celtics 54-40, and out-assisted the C’s 20-12.

The final score was a bad indicator of Boston’s performance against a better team. For parts of the game, the Celtics were solid. For the deciding stretches, they were decidedly less so.

One has to wonder, however, how long a proud veteran like Gerald Wallace will be able to deal with losses like this.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

  • ElRoz

    Well, if they wanted to be competitive, they would not have moved KG and Pierce!
    I sure hope the team is in a great position in mid summer 2014 when the NBA draft is taking place.

  • buh scti

    Celtics is least talented team in the NBA

    • YouSerious?

      The 76ers would like a word with you.

      • buh scti

        76 beat celtics after week in Europe without any problem

        • OlaCambada

          That doesn't mean they are more talented. Means they played harder and smarter.

  • check12check

    have to admit, I never really liked Gerald Wallace, but I never really knew him as a player until now. I've come around quickly. He doesn't have the same impact, but he reminds me a bit of other energy players a-la Joakim Noah (HUGE fan of Noah. imho he means more to the bulls than rose. yeah, you heard me.). I just love players who grit and grind their way to a lose ball or a board or even just making life hell for some dude not willing to take hits. People who don't play may tell you otherwise, but basketball is a physical game. When guys do things that make me yell at the T.V., 'now that was a man's rebound!" they earn a spot on my team.

  • Cornbread

    Wake me in June 2014 when it is over. This will be painful in the meantime. When Gerald Wallace is calling people out, you know you are in trouble.

    • olacambada

      Gerald Wallace is a winner. Why wouldn't he call out players who aren't trying hard ?

      • Cornbread

        What exactly has he won? He has spent his career with the Kings, Bobcats, Trailblazers, and Nets. He has never been to the finals once 12 years. And I am not saying that he is wrong, or necessarily a bad player, but it just goes to show we have fallen a long, long, long way from the days of KG, Pierce, Allen, Rondo and Perkins — to the point where a 13 year journeyman who has yet to play a single regular season game in a Celtics uniform is our spokesman. Again, please wake me when the nightmare is over.

  • joe

    I dont know if anybody remembers kg saying after a loss to the stephen b jackin and Gerald wallace led bobcats that gerald was one of the only players who plays both sides of the court. It’s too bad he is losing his athleticism

  • swissflix

    watching the first quarter of that game. Not everything looks bad – Green and Wallace are doing just fine. Olynyk's picks are really soft, though. He needs to work on them.

    • CelticsBIG3

      Don't worry, Green comes back down to earth after the first quarter. Same old passive Jeff Green. Vitor Faverani is probably the biggest surprise for me from the preseason. He drops a nifty post move with a left hook shot in the 3rd quarter. Wouldn't be surprised if he finds his way into a starting role this season.

      • swissflix

        it was a preseason game, so i think it is quite ok to come down after the first 12 minutes.

  • I also think that the C´s have a talented Team. Regards from Germany. :)

  • Emurph413

    I'm quickly becoming a Gerald Wallace fan. He could easily pack it in and rest on his nice paycheck and let rebuilding mask half-ass play if he wanted to, but he doesn't.

  • OlaCambada

    Wallace is 100% accurate! They played with no motivation, heart or hustle. It's like they didn't even care most of the game and didn't play as a team. This writer must be Ainge's tanking buddy. Shame.

    • check12check

      how did you think this article took a stance contrary to wallace?

  • OlaCambada

    It's an embarrassment that Wallace is the only one saying these things and that writers aren't backing him up. Instead they are criticizing him for wanting to win and play hard lol. Insanity. Bunch of sellouts everywhere. They don't get paid millions to just show up and collect a check. Only losers do that. This has become more like WWF then pro sports.

    • YouSerious?

      Are you reading the same article as all of us? The writer didn't take a hard stance on either side and was quite objective. Where does he say Wallace is flat out wrong for his comments? If you only read the first two paragraphs then I could see how you came to this conclusion, but the article is fairly balanced. Players like Wallace, Bradley, Sully, Bass, Rondo….they all work their asses off. League policies have made the NBA's image more flashy and showy than gritty, not the players. If you played rough and physical like how Dennis Rodman used to scrap around, you'd either get technicals or outright tossed in every game.

  • hax

    I'm happiest with Wallace than anyone else on the Celtics right now. His contract sucks but he is leading by example, playing both ends, and hustling.

    Also the fastest way out of Boston is by playing well this year. Danny would throw anyone except Rondo out the door for a 1st round draft pick. If say the Grizzlies are at a contending record but they want a true SF, Wallace or Green for a 1st round 2014 pick. :) Seems dumb to us for them to do that deal, but a championship can't be seen as dumb.