The first critical move of the Nets’ transformational summer came in the waning days of winter. It came in a curious trade, made at the N.B.A. deadline, for a player who had little chance of affecting the present but who would conceivably brighten their future.
Eight months later, Gerald Wallace is still the most intriguing element in the Nets’ chemical composition, a free radical with the power to shape their still-evolving identity.
Wallace is the Nets’ hustle, their strength, their grit and their versatility. He can guard three positions and anchor a small lineup. When the time comes, he will check LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce. He is the best hope the Nets have of becoming a respectable defensive team.
If Deron Williams is the Nets’ most indispensable player, Wallace is a close second.