You wouldn't think Gerald Wallace would mind going from the dregs of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket to an exciting team in the thick of the playoff race out West, but Wallace isn't exactly happy with the trade that sent him from Charlotte to Portland last month.
Wallace has revamped his game as an exciting sixth man for the Blazers, currently fighting for the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoff bracket. He's driving more and making a difference for a Portland team that seems the exact opposite of the dreary bunch he left behind in Charlotte.
But that doesn't take away the sting of being told you're not wanted. From the Associated Press:
"To feel like you're not wanted anymore or you're not good enough for the franchise anymore it's a slap in the face," said Wallace, whose new team faces the Bobcats Friday. "That was a hurtful feeling for me."
Wallace went on to say he felt as if the Bobcats gave him a "stab in the back," and went on to provide several reasons why.
Back in Charlotte this week to play the Bobcats for the first time since the trade, Wallace recounted how coach Paul Silas told him on the day of the deadline that all trading options had been exhausted, and that Wallace was safe to feel comfortable as a member of the Bobcats for the rest of the season. Why he would feel safe in that is anyone's guess, but here's how Wallace remembers that Thursday:
While the Bobcats had been shopping the forward for months and his agent told him there was a "50-50 chance" he'd be dealt, Wallace never thought it would happen. The belief was reinforced when coach Paul Silas told him early on Feb. 24, trade deadline day, that he was safe.
"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 said. "Then I get home and bam, I'm traded."
Well, a couple of people are off, here.
Wallace had been rumored to be dealt for months, especially with team owner Michael Jordan (who later said he "loved this trade") trying to cut salary. So until that final buzzer sounds, you have to consider a trade, at worst, likely, even if your coach tells you otherwise.
And for Silas? A coach that has been through more trade deadlines than just about any coach in the NBA? He can't work in absolutes, especially with the unpredictability of that particular week, or day. Anything can happen, so there's no risk turning yourself into an inadvertent liar by speaking out of turn. Even if you're just trying to be the nice guy, and calm the poor player down.
Wallace also has ill feelings toward Bobcats GM Rod Higgins, telling the AP this:
"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."
You're not wrong, there, Gerald. And while it hurts to be dealt, the Bobcats are hemorrhaging money and needed to make a move. In Jordan's words, the Bobcats didn't "want to be the seventh or eighth seed" every season, and while I wish he would have effused that sentiment years ago while putting together a win-now team for 2010, this is the right course of action. Even if it means dumping Wallace in a one-sided deal for draft picks and expiring contracts.
It's not hard to see why Wallace has strong feelings for Charlotte. This was the first team to give him a chance as an everyday player, the first team to hand him a contract he had earned and he was the first Bobcats All-Star. It's not saying much, but he was the best player in that franchise's history.
But that sting has to go away, quickly, even if you're shuffling between hotels and rented condos. Because Wallace can do some pretty special work in Portland, and the fans have already taken to him. The Blazers can really work as an upset special in this spring's playoff bracket, and Wallace could be integral in those surprises.
First, he has to let Charlotte go.
- Gerald Wallace