Portland (37-27) at Charlotte (26-38)

By MATT BECKER, STATS Senior Writer Thursday, Mar 10, 2011 Tipoff: 7:00 pm EST Fri Mar 11, 2011

For seven years, Gerald Wallace(notes) was the face of the Charlotte Bobcats, leading them to their first playoff appearance and earning the only All-Star nod in team history.

Wallace was working on getting the Bobcats back to the postseason before being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers two weeks ago. He’ll make what should be an emotional return to Charlotte on Friday night as the Trail Blazers go for a fifth straight victory.

The Bobcats (26-38) traded Wallace, the last original member of the expansion team, to Portland on Feb. 24 for center Joel Przybilla(notes), reserve forward Dante Cunningham(notes), center Sean Marks(notes) and a pair of conditional first-round draft picks. The move was made to shed salary, with owner Michael Jordan saying he loved the financial flexibility the deal would bring, but it was not well received by some fans.

Wallace was also angered by the trade, calling it a “stab in the back.”

An All-Star last season while leading Charlotte to the playoffs, Wallace said he was told by coach Paul Silas hours before the trade deadline that he wouldn’t be dealt and “then I get home and bam, I’m traded.”

Wallace, who was selected by the Bobcats in the 2004 expansion draft and became a fan favorite in Charlotte, envisioned retiring as a Bobcat. He wasn’t pleased about how the situation was handled by general manager Rod Higgins, saying “I don’t even want to comment on that guy.”

“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,” Wallace said. “That was a hurtful feeling for me.”

Wallace had his best game with his new team in Tuesday’s 105-96 win over Miami, scoring 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting.

“I love him. He’s a guy that brings it. He’s a very competitive player, mentally tough,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. “In this league there are men and there are boys. Gerald is a man.”

His worst performance with the Trail Blazers (37-27) came against his former team Saturday, when he finished with seven points and shot 1 of 7.

Despite Wallace’s struggles, Portland had little trouble taking care of the Bobcats, beating them 93-69 for their fourth straight win in the series. LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) had 26 points in that game, and scored 26 again against the Heat.

With Tuesday’s victory, the Trail Blazers extended their road winning streak to seven games, their longest since reeling off nine in a row away from Portland from March 20-April 10, 1991.

The Blazers have won four straight overall, and are 11-3 since Feb. 5.

Charlotte is heading in the opposite direction, and is struggling to stay competitive since trading Wallace.

After beating Sacramento 110-98 in its first game following the trade, Charlotte has lost a season-worst six in a row. The offense is struggling mightily, averaging just 81.7 points during the skid.

Despite this rough stretch, the Bobcats are still just one game back of Indiana for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff berth.

Charlotte has been hit hard by injuries, and played without top scorer Stephen Jackson(notes) (hamstring), sixth man Tyrus Thomas(notes) (knee surgery), reserve guard Matt Carroll(notes) (ankle) and Przybilla (knee) in Wednesday’s 101-84 loss to Chicago.

“I told them if they play that way and we get our full complement of guys, then I like our chances,” Silas said.

Silas could have Jackson and Thomas, who both sat out last week in Portland, back for this game.

Gerald Henderson(notes), Wallace’s replacement in Charlotte’s starting lineup, had 20 points Wednesday, and is starting to look more comfortable with his new role. Henderson is averaging 18.7 points on 56.5 percent shooting in his last three games after averaging 6.7 points on 25.0 percent shooting in his previous three.

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