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The traditional box score is a tool primarily designed to measure offense, and as a result, the work of some of the N.B.A.’s top defenders can go unnoticed. Without a quantitative point of reference to indicate who is succeeding on defense, an accurate assessment often requires a deliberate viewing approach. Nick Collison’s rotations and Toney Douglas’s blanketing of ball-handlers may not show up in an easily countable form, but those who know where to look can see the quiet defensive impact of either player.

But there are also those players whose defense is anything but quiet. Dwight Howard does all of the little things on defense, but he also swats shots into the crowd and gobbles up rebounds. LeBron James jumps passing lanes and chases down opponents for blocks. And Gerald Wallace, who was dominant on both ends in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night, plays a physical, active brand of all-purpose defense that is simply impossible to ignore.

Wallace earned the nickname Crash with a reckless style that often sent him tumbling to the floor, but it is an equally appropriate description for his attention-demanding defensive play. If basketball is an ensemble, Wallace’s defense perhaps best parallels the interjection of a crashing cymbal; his play is external to the game’s clear melodic lines, but he nonetheless ensures that his impact does not go unnoticed. Each block, contested shot, dive, bump and leap is downright percussive.

Yet, for the first few months of the season, Wallace was uncharacteristically muted. His tenure as a Bobcat was over long before he was actually traded from the team, and whether Larry Brown, Charlotte’s struggles or Wallace was to blame for that is anyone’s guess, though the most likely answer is some amalgamation of the three. Regardless, the energy that had defined Wallace’s career had unexpectedly diminished, and the greatest player in Bobcats history rarely seemed himself during his final half-season in Charlotte.

A change of scenery has made all the difference. The deadline deal that sent Wallace from the water-treading Bobcats to a legitimate playoff club has seemingly re-energized him, as he has been spectacularly productive and efficient as a Portland Trail Blazer. But Wallace’s stylistic return to form has been just as palpable.
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