Childersberg, Alabama. Population: 4,927. A life of importing catfish and bass, and fishing off a back porch into a self-made 2 1/2-acre lake.
It's the simple routine that's the essence of rough-and-rugged Brooklyn Nets forward Gerald Wallace, not the concrete jungle of his basketball home or nearby Manhattan. In fact, New York City scares him.
"I have a driver," Wallace said when asked about his commute from his Fort Lee, N.J., home to Manhattan or Brooklyn. "If I'm going to the city, that's pretty much how I'm getting in. I'm afraid of New York City,"
Wallace loves it quiet, except on the court where his reckless style and velcro defense provides the Nets with grit, and earned him the nickname "Crash." He's also been a decent scorer, averaging 13.5 points per game, but the 6-foot-7 forward will be counted on to defend the NBA's elite scorers and by any means necessary make people like LeBron James' life on the floor as difficult as possible.
"In Gerald Wallace's case, it's not an easy job," said Nets head coach Avery Johnson. "Just go through the list. I don't want to have to name all 29 starting small forwards. It's a tough job."
If anyone is up for the task, it's Wallace, who has been a starter and stopper since he was selected in the 2004 expansion draft by the Charlotte Bobcats. Wallace's numbers improved steadily to where he became only the third player since 1973 (David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon) to rank in the top-10 in field-goal percentage, blocks and steals per game.
Those blue-collar qualities compelled Nets general manager Billy King to trade for Wallace in March for two bench players and an important 2012 top-3 protected first-round draft pick, despite the player entering a free-agent season. But just like the blockbuster deal for Deron Williams, King's gamble paid off. He re-signed Wallace in July for $40 million over four years to serve as the glue of a lineup that features two superstars (Williams, Joe Johnson) and one on track to stardom (Brook Lopez) health permitting.
Also similar to Williams' decision to remain a Net was the appeal of a new arena, an energized fan base and a team built to contend right now that convinced Wallace to stick around for the ride. Just like that, the Nets became an "it" team, one deep with talent and grind guys to do the little things not seen in a box score.
Perfect, said Wallace. Sign me up.
"This is probably the most talented team I've been on," the swingman said, "since I was in Sacramento."
What's never changed is Wallace's commitment to a challenge, one during which he'll put on his hard hat, get the job done and retreat to the lake. The big city may scare him, but Wallace won't be afraid to stare down expectations and become a big fish in a big pond.
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC