EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- With the postseason finally here, if anyone is thrilled to turn the page to a new chapter, it's the Nets' Gerald Wallace.
Carving out his niche on a new-look roster. Injuries. Adjusting to a coaching change. Lack of confidence in his shot.
It's all taken its toll on the Nets' athletic starting small forward, who plays with an all-out, leave-nothing-in-the-tank style.
"It's been probably the worst season I ever have experienced as far as playing basketball,'' Wallace told Newsday on Friday, "one of those things where you are kind of confused coming in. New coaches, new system change. It's been totally different for me, but I'm not going to complain. I'm keeping my head up and am going to try to have a successful playoff season.''
Wallace can wash those painful regular-season memories away with a solid showing in the postseason, which begins for the fourth-seeded Nets when they host the fifth-seeded Bulls in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series at Barclays Center Saturday night.
Wallace, who averaged 5.7 points and shot 33.9 percent -- including 13.5 percent from three-point range -- after the All-Star break, appears to have worked through the left foot contusion that kept him out of two games. The Nets are going to need him to play up to his capabilities.
"I think he's looking the healthiest he's been in a while,'' interim coach P.J Carlesimo said. "We've had the two hardest practices since I don't know when . . . [and] you combine the games he's played recently with the two practices, and he's getting up and down the floor. He's getting off the ground and he's playing, I think, with more pep than he's played in a long time, which is a great sign.''
Deron Williams and Wallace seem to fare well together on those all-too-scarce times when they're both running ahead of the pack on the fast break. They even hooked up for a rare Nets alley-oop in Wednesday night's season finale, something that no doubt made Williams happy. They're going to need that kind of easy bucket to be successful in the playoffs, especially against the defense-oriented Bulls.
"He's been more aggressive,'' Williams said, "and I talked about getting out more and running because it will help him, help his style of play, help him be more comfortable to where he's not just turned into a spot- up shooter, because that's not really his strong suit. I've got to do a better job of putting him in position to score and get him the ball where he's comfortable. But at the same time, they are going to make him shoot, so he's got to be ready to knock shots down when he's open.''
Wallace isn't so sure that his offensive output will be one of the keys to a nice playoff run.
"I don't know. We'll find out,'' he said. "It hasn't been needed the regular season, so we'll find out in the playoffs. This is a seven-game series. Teams dialogue and digest your playbook, your offensive plays, your guys' individual tendencies, things you like to do offensively. So it's obviously going to be some different roles, some different situations as far as me offensively. So we'll just see how we go from there.''