Gerald Wallace of the Brooklyn Nets goes to the hoop...

Gerald Wallace of the Brooklyn Nets goes to the hoop against the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Dec. 29, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

WASHINGTON -- As P.J. Carlesimo rattled off the reasons why the Nets' three-game road trip got off to an atrocious start deep in the heart of Texas on New Year's Eve (a 31-point loss to the Spurs), he got around to mentioning one guy in particular.

"Gerald Wallace is a monster," the Nets interim coach said after the Nets' win over Oklahoma City on Wednesday night. "You want to talk about something that wasn't in San Antonio? Gerald Wallace, because Gerald Wallace is kind of the heart, the way he plays. So, it's not easy for us to play without Gerald Wallace."

For all the dissecting of Deron Williams' game and non-stop chatter surrounding him and Joe Johnson, Wallace's play is as key as any for the Nets (17-15), who meet the Wizards (4-26) Friday night.

Wallace's return from a one-game absence due to a bruised left knee injury he'd been nursing was a huge reason why they beat the Thunder, 110-93, in Oklahoma.

He's averaging 10.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, but Wallace's intangibles are difficult to replace.

No one on the team plays -- or hits the floor -- harder than him and he sets the tone defensively, typically drawing one of the opposition's top weapons.

"I do the little things," said the versatile Wallace, who switches between small forward and power forward. "I don't have to worry about scoring. I don't have to come out and score. We have guys that can put up 20, 30 points.

"We had Joe going [Wednesday], so I wanted Joe to rest on the defensive end. So I'll take the defensive challenge of guarding their best player, and let him keep his momentum going on the offensive end."

That unselfishness, paired with his crafty basketball I.Q., is one of the many reasons Wallace is beloved by his teammates. He's tantalized by what he sees from them, too, and truly believes the Nets have a chance to mirror the Kings teams of the early 2000s that featured the likes of Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Mike Bibby in his prime.

"I've never been the one who wants to lead the team in scoring or has to take so many shots," Wallace said. "My main thing is, I'm in my 12th year. I've been in the playoffs with Sacramento, and I saw how good of a team they were and how they played. So I want to get back to that, and I think we've got a team that's just as good as any team I've played with in Sacramento, who can do some special things here.

"And I want to get that feeling back."

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