HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We suspect the standing ovation Gerald Wallace will receive at Time Warner Arena tonight in Charlotte will be as long and thunderous as any heard in Bobcats’ history.
After all, it’s not every day that the very first face of the franchise walks through the door with an opposing team. Yet that’s exactly what Wallace and his new team, the Portland Trail Blazers, will do this evening.
And it’s far from the happy homecoming you might have imagined. Wallace is more than happy to be toiling on a Blazers team steaming toward the playoffs with a renewed energy, due in large part to their last-minute acquisition of Wallace at the Feb. 24 trade deadline. And few players have exhibited the sort of no-nonsense approach to their work that Wallace does on a daily basis.
His description of the way he was shipped out of Charlotte, though, doesn’t sound like the sort of treatment the only All-Star in Bobcats history deserved. Wallace used phrases like “stab in the back” and “slap in the face” to capture his feelings about the trade, a move he insists Bobcats coach Paul Silas told him would not happen just hours before it did.
“Basically, he told me before the practice that I was good, that no trades were going to go down and I was OK and I didn’t have anything to worry about,” Wallace told reporters in Charlotte Thursday, his first day back in town since the trade. “Then I get home and bam, I’m traded.”
In this era of players dictating the terms of their own careers, the one that has some people crowing about a ruinous takeover of the league by star players demanding to play with their All-Star friends, Wallace is a victim of the age-old flip side practice of teams making moves in their own financial best interest with little regard to what that means to the player or players involved.
There is no doubt that the trade saves the Bobcats money down the road — $21 million over the next two seasons. The Bobcats also received two first-round draft picks, along with role players Joel Pryzbilla, Dante Cunningham and Sean Marks (waived last week).
Bobcats owner Michael Jordan praised the deal publicly, adding even more salt to Wallace’s wound. Not only did they trade him, they made it seem like moving him would be the answer to all of the franchise’s problems.
“I thought I was going to retire here,” Wallace told reporters. “I actually thought that when I stopped wearing a Bobcats uniform I’d be done with basketball.”
Now he’s just done with the Bobcats management, particularly general manager Rod Higgins.
“I don’t even want to comment on that guy,” Wallace said, before adding he believes Higgins was adamant in wanting to deal him. “I feel like that’s been something he’s been wanting to do.”
The Blazers certainly aren’t complaining. Since adding Wallace as their sixth man, they’ve been on a tear (5-2 with wins over in Denver, in Orlando and in Miami). Wallace lit up the Heat with 22 points and nine rebounds in a win earlier this week and has surely saved a little something extra for his former team tonight.
“I love him. He’s a guy that brings it. He’s a very competitive player, mentally tough,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan told reporters. “In this league there are men and there are boys. Gerald is a man. When you’re in this league, you need those guys that don’t fear opposing players. Wallace doesn’t fear LeBron (James), (Dwyane) Wade, Kobe (Bryant).”
Those are the very same reasons all those fans that will be standing on their feet tonight in Charlotte love Wallace!
We have video evidence, too: