WALTHAM -- The mystery has been solved.
Gerald Wallace was never missing. He wasn't refusing to move to Boston. He was just enjoying time with his family in Alabama during an offseason that caught him by surprise.
"I'm very happy to be here, especially with the these guys are looking for a new start, a fresh start," Wallace said on Boston Celtics Media Day. "I think a lot of people have taken out of this is that I didn't want to come, I didn't want to be here, I didn't want to be a part of it. That's so far from the truth."
Rewind to June 27. Wallace was at home with friends and family playing a game of cards as they got ready to watch the 2013 NBA Draft. Out of what seemed like nowhere to Wallace, breaking news of a mega trade between the Celtics and Brooklyn Nets flashed across the television. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were being sent to the Nets. In return, Wallace was one of the players on the move to the Celtics.
Was this really happening again? Wallace had been traded from the Charlotte Bobcats to the Portland Trail Blazers in 2011, only to be moved from the Trail Blazers to the Nets the following year. Another season, another team.
"I think the main thing was me being a veteran for 13 years, I've been traded three times in the past three to four years," he said. "This trade kind of caught me off guard. I didn't see it coming. … It put me in shock. You kind of sit back and look at yourself and wonder what happened or what I could have done better to stay."
The enigma surrounding Wallace began at the press conference when he was the only incoming player not in attendance. The explanation was simple, he says. Wallace had previously committed to a basketball camp on that day and didn't want to leave the campers.
As the summer progressed, more and more of the Celtics began arriving in Waltham for offseason training. Wallace was not one of them. He didn't come to the Boston area until last week, a late trip that left many questioning his desire to play for his new team. Not so, he said. He was processing the chapter in his career and seeing his family as much as he could. Wallace cleared up all the speculation on Monday at Media Day, the first time he has spoken to reporters since the trade.
"It was a situation that had nothing to do with me coming to Boston," he said. "I've always loved the city of Boston when I came. Besides, I'm a Red Sox and Patriots fan so I'm close to my teams. (Wallace has a room in his home dedicated to Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots memorabilia.) I'm happy to be here and I want to be here. It's a fresh start. It's kind of hard when you've been in the league 13 years and you come in and got to start all over, but to me I look at it as a challenge and trying to turn this team around like I did in Charlotte and try to help these guys out."
His teammates describe Wallace, 31, as a leader. The Celtics look forward to using his versatility in multiple rotations on the court. Those in green and white were not phased by Wallace's late move to Boston -- "You see Gerald all year, and then in the summer time he vanishes," said Keith Bogans. What really matters to them is what he is going to do on the court.
"He's a guy that if we get up and down the court and if we play the style we are talking about playing, he can be very effective," said Kris Humphries. "I think we can also expect a lot from him this year and we're looking forward to it."
Wallace does not pretend the transition to another team is an easy one. He doesn't sugarcoat the reality of the rebuilding process and the fact that he was traded from a playoff contender to an organization that overhauled its roster this summer. But he isn't turning his back on a team he has yet to play a game for, either. Wallace is a member of the Celtics, and as long as he wears that jersey he will embrace the latest stop in his NBA career.
"At 13 years you never want to go to a team that's starting a rebuilding process -- your main focus is trying to get somewhere where you can end your career on a championship note," he said. "At the same point, I'm here. I'm happy to be here, I'm going to enjoy being here, I'm going to enjoy playing with the younger guys. … A championship is what I really want, what I want to go out with, but I've never won a championship in my life so my life isn't based on championships. It's based on being able to have a successful career and have fun and enjoy the game and going out on a positive note on the game. So if can come here and build this team and improve this team and get us back into playoff contention and push forward from there, then I'd be more than happy than I would be on a team that's won a championship."