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NBA Daily: Wallace Finding Stability With Clippers

From being the final pick in the 2016 NBA Draft to taking multiple trips to & from the G-League, Tyrone Wallace speaks to David Yapkowitz about earning a spot with the LA Clippers.

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Last season, the NBA created two additional roster spots for teams in the form of two-way contracts. Players signed to one of these contracts could only spend a maximum of 45 days with their NBA team, while spending the rest of their time in the G-League.

One player who was the recipient of one of those new contracts last year was Los Angeles Clippers swingman Tyrone Wallace. During an injury-ravaged season, Wallace got plenty of opportunities with the Clippers and was able to prove he was an NBA-caliber player.

When he hit restricted free agency this past summer, the New Orleans Pelicans signed him to an offer sheet, only to have the Clippers match. Heading into this season, it’s the first time in his professional basketball career that he’s had some real stability.

“It feels good. I think all the two-way guys obviously want a regular deal,” Wallace told Basketball Insiders. “But I think the two-way was good in terms of giving me an opportunity and giving guys an opportunity to go out there and show that they can be regular contract guys. You use it to that advantage and play well, then it feels good to be a year removed and on a regular deal.”

Wallace certainly proved to the masses that he belongs in the league. He wasn’t expected to contribute much last season as a rookie, especially on a two-way contract, but multiple injuries to key guards such as Patrick Beverley, Austin Rivers and Milos Teodosic forced Doc Rivers to throw Wallace into the fire right away.

He responded by averaging 9.7 points per game on 44.5 percent shooting from the field. He also pulled down 3.5 rebounds per game and dished out 2.4 assists. He always had the confidence that he was an NBA player, but his journey didn’t always come easy.

In the 2016 NBA Draft, after a stellar four years at Cal, Wallace was selected by the Utah Jazz with the last (60th) overall pick. He ended up in the G-League where he was cut by the Salt Lake City Stars due to an injury.

“It’s just a grind. Being drafted the last pick, most of those guys don’t end up sticking or playing in the league,” Wallace told Basketball Insiders. “I think it just shows how hard I’ve tried to work in order to get here. You have your bumps along the way, I played in the G-League my whole first year.”

The Clippers signed him prior to the start of the 2017-18 season, but cut him at the end of training camp. He found himself back in the G-League with the Clippers affiliate, the Agua Caliente Clippers. It was there that he caught the attention of the Clippers with a strong start to the G-League season.

“After being cut and going to the G-League, I played really well and then I was able to work myself into the opportunity to actually get minutes and play up here at this level,” Wallace told Basketball Insiders. “I think it’s just being able to stick with it and understand that if you work hard, it will show.”

Although the Clippers obviously wanted him back, Beverley’s return to the lineup – as well as the emergence of rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – pushed Wallace further back in the rotation. His minutes average dropped from 28.4 last season to 9.7 this season. He began the season playing sparingly with a few strings of DNP’s.

Recently, however, he’s begun to play his way back into being a regular in the rotation. Since the beginning of December, Wallace has seen playing time in all but two of the Clippers’ 19 games during that stretch. He had a season-high 15 points against the Toronto Raptors on Dec. 11, along with four rebounds, six assists, and two blocked shots.

When Wallace enters the game, he gives the Clippers a strong defensive presence as well as a guy who is constantly in attack mode and can get to the rim with ease.

“I think I’m a guy that comes in and is able to be versatile,” Wallace told Basketball Insiders. “I can help defensively, guard multiple positions, try to attack in the open court, be aggressive, but just a team player. I come in and help these guys whichever way coach [Rivers] and the team feels I need to.”

The Clippers’ bench has consistently been one of the best in the league. They’ve been leading the NBA in bench scoring the entire season with 52.5 points per game.

Wallace has now regained his role as part of that second unit, and, for now, he’s just trying to bring the same intensity as the rest of the bench does.

“I think we take it personally. We feel like we can go out there and continue to keep the same level of play as the starters,” Wallace told Basketball Insiders. “We got proven guys, we got Lou [Williams] on the bench, now we got Pat [Beverley] coming off, and then ‘Trez [Harrell] who’s been a force for us down low. I think we’re just ready to compete and play whenever we’re put into the game and take advantage of the minutes that we get.”

NOTE: Wallace just recently had his contract guaranteed by the Clippers for the rest of the season.

David Yapkowitz has been a staff writer for Basketball Insiders since 2017. Based in Los Angeles, he focuses on the Pacific Division as well as the NBA at large.

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