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Jim Mancari,

Gerald Wallace

When you check out a box score of a Brooklyn Nets game, you’ll likely find double-digit assists from Deron Williams, double-digit points from Brook Lopez and double-digit rebounds for Kris Humphries and Reggie Evans.

You may not even notice Gerald Wallace’s line, but Wallace this season has meant much more to the team than merely recording stats.

Wallace provides the intangibles that have made the Nets a complete team. After holding each of its past four opponents to an average of 83 points per game, the Nets come into tonight’s game against the Magic leading the NBA in allowing the fewest points per game (90.7).

Obviously, Wallace’s defensive presence has helped. He's the team's best perimeter defender and usually has the task of locking up the opponent's best offensive threat.

On opening night, Wallace suffered an ankle injury and missed six games. Fortunately for the Nets, the injury was not too severe, as losing Wallace long-term would have decimated the team’s defense.

The Nets are 10-4 this season, but without Wallace, the team is just 4-3. In losses to the Timberwolves, Heat and Warriors, Wallace’s defense was sorely missed, evidenced by the Nets giving up a whopping 104 points per game in those losses.

Throughout the preseason, Avery Johnson said, over and over, that he wanted his team to be among the league’s top-10 defenses. It's early, but is the past four games are any indication, that goal may be within reach.

Again, Wallace may not show up in the points column, though he did score a season-high 16 points on the big stage against the Knicks. But it seems like each game he’s defending shots against the opposing team’s best player, picking up steals and even blocking a few shots.

Thus far, Wallace’s shooting has been a bit off, as he's making just 36.4 percent of his shots. That's well below his career shooting percentage of 47.2 percent. And his 23.8 percent clip from three-point range is also lower than his career mark of 31.6 percent.

But when the Nets signed Wallace to a four-year, $40 million contract, they didn’t expect him to average 20-plus points per night. The team brought him in to hustle every play and be a defensive stopper, and that’s what he’s done while in the lineup.

It’s simply an added bonus when Wallace shoots well offensively.

As a result of the Nets-Celtics brawl on Wednesday night, Wallace was fined $35,000 for his role. Wallace didn't initiate the confrontation, but he mixed it up and with Kevin Garnett, coming to the defense of his teammates. Despite the limited time Wallace has been here, he’s all about the team, and his wallet is lighter because of it.

Coach Johnson may choose to give him a strategic night of rest every once in a while to make sure his ankle is well rested for a playoff run. If this team hopes to advance deep into the postseason, the defense, led by Wallace, will have to shine.

With all the wheeling and dealing Nets’ general manager Billy King did this offseason, re-signing Wallace has somewhat flown under the radar.

With him, the Nets are 6-1 and without him, they're 4-3.

You don't need to be a mathematician to figure out that Wallace makes an immense difference for the Nets.

Jim Mancari is a Contributor to Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.

Tags: avery johnson, unsung hero, defense, NBA, Columns, Brooklyn Nets, wallace, gerald wallace, defensive specialist
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