Tyrone Wallace’s quest to return to the NBA continues in the G League bubble at Orlando, Florida.
Wallace, 26, who completed his Cal career five years ago, played 106 NBA games over three seasons. He scored a career-high 22 points against the Warriors in just his third NBA game back on January 10, 2018.
But Wallace is not on an NBA roster this season, so he continues to pursue his dreams with the Agua Caliente Clippers in the G League. Through the team’s first 10 games, the 26-year-old guard is averaging 18.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals.
But the adbridged G League season provides each team just 15 games due to COVID-19 concerns so Wallace has only five more chances to show off his talents before Aqua Caliente’s schedule runs out on March 6.
“The goal is to get a call-up or get a deal, either before the (G League) season ends or after the season ends,” Wallace said in our conversation on Thursday. “I think I’ve been playing pretty well."
Friday’s 109-108 loss to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants was Aqua Caliente’s fourth game in six days. “The schedule’s hectic, but it’s been fun,” Wallace said. “It’s quick but it’s definitely brutal. You play a ton of minutes and you play a ton of games within a week.”
Wallace reminisces in this video about his 22-point game against the Warriors:
Wallace’s most recent NBA game was Dec. 4, 2019, a scoreless four-minute stint for the Atlanta Hawks against the Brooklyn Nets.
There is no clear path back to the league, no timetable, no assurances. Wallace said he continues to pursue his dreams through the G League rather than playing overseas, partly because of COVID-19 and partly because he now has two young sons.
“The hope is that I continue to play after the season ends,” he said. “That would mean I would hopefully get on somewhere with a team.”
Wallace said all options are on the table. “You only get so much time to play this game.”
THE ONGOING 3-POINT CHALLENGE: Wallace does a lot of good things on the basketball floor. He can score, he rebounds well for a guard and uses his length on defense. It has always pretty much comes down to the same thing: Perimeter shooting.
He was a 29-percent 3-point shooter at Cal, a 20-percent shooter in the NBA and has converted just 27 percent from deep in 77 G League games.
“The biggest thing is shooting — it always has been,” he acknowledged. “Even at this level, if I shot the ball well early on I’d be in a different position.”
In the video above, Wallace recalls shooting the 3-pointer better in his first season in the NBA with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2017-18 than he has since. In fact, through 13 games — 10 as a starter — he averaged 12.1 points and converted 35 percent from deep, although he rarely attempted 3’s.
“My first year I was just playing. I didn’t really have any pressure,” he said.
Then he made just 3 of 20 tries from beyond the arc over his final 17 games that season and said his confidence took a hit.
“The shooting piece has always been a thing I’ve needed to improve on, and I’ve worked tremendously at it and I have gotten a lot better at,” Wallace said.
His coaches this season have encouraged him to shoot more 3s but it remains an erratic aspect of his game. He shot 4 for 6 on 3’s in a 28-point performance a week ago vs. the Canton Charge. A few days later, while scoring 20 points against the Long Island Nets, he was 0 for 7 from deep.
“If I’m able to make the open 3, I force teams to play me more honest. And it just opens up the rest of my game,” he said. “I’ve been in games where teams aren’t guarding me. You’ve got to have that confidence to step in and take those shots.”
THE BUBBLE & FATHERHOOD: Playing and living in the bubble in Florida has been a new experience for Wallace. The league tries to provide the players with everything they need, but there are limits to that.
“More than anything, it’s being stuck in one site — not being able to see family, not being able to leave. That’s the roughest thing.”
Wallace is now a father of two boys — Traelin Martin Wallace, age 18 months, and Trevyn James Wallace, born just two months ago.
“Our first born is all over the place right now He’s huge, too. He’s really tall,” Wallace said. “I already have him at home playing around on his court.”
Because he’s isolated in the bubble, Wallace has missed about half of Trevyn’s young life. “That’s why it’s been tough for me, not being able to see my kids.”
But FaceTime allows the next best thing to being there. Traelin already knows which button to push on the iPad to connect with Dad.
“I might be in a meeting or game . . . I’ll have 10 Facetime calls and I know they’re from him,” Wallace said. “I can’t wait to get back and just play with them and hold them.”
Cover photo of Tyrone Wallace courtesy of the Agua Caliente Clippers
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo