Brandon Bass opting out of his contract, we can understand. The man's just entering his prime, making less than the league's average salary. Jameer Nelson? We get why he would want to go over his options with Orlando's new GM before committing to giving up or "giving in" to $8.6 million next season. Gerald Wallace? We do not understand why the hard-working, do-it-all forward is opting out of the final year, and $9.5 million, in 2012-13, according to the Charlotte Observer's great beat writer, Rick Bonnell.
Because even though he's respected league-wise, and in search of another long-term deal before one crash to the floor for the man they call "Crash" could dash his hopes of extended security, we can't see many reasons why he would opt out of the big payday next year to take on a contract that he's likely to also receive after playing for that $9.5 million in 2012-13. Unless, of course, the Brooklyn Nets make him some ridiculous contract offer that …
Oh. Wait. We get it now.
Because you remember when the Nets traded for Wallace, right? It was back in March, hours after it became clear that Dwight Howard was going to sign a document guaranteeing he'd opt into the final year of his contract in 2012-13, removing the Nets from any attempts to trade for or sign the All-Star big man. Panicked, they dealt a draft pick to Portland for Wallace — a barely protected pick that only made assurances that the Nets would receive the 2012 selection if lottery luck knocked the pick up to the top three in the draft.
In one of the sadder attempts at justifying a trade that we've seen, Nets GM Billy King then remarked that he only protected the top three picks because his team only really liked three players in the lottery at the top, an awful thing to say to fans much less potential first-round draftees (taken out of the top three) that could end up on the Nets in years down the road. As you'd expect, because all statistical hallmarks pointed toward it, the Trail Blazers held on to the selection they were most likely to, the sixth overall pick, and the Nets were left with just a few months of Gerald Wallace.
They should hope, at least, to be "left with just a few months of Gerald Wallace," despite his formidable skills, attitude, toughness and passion. Why?
Because re-signing Wallace, long term, would be a pointless maneuver. All-Star Nets guard Deron Williams hasn't decided where he's going as a free agent just yet, we're more than sure, but his supposed relationship with Wallace shouldn't change a dang thing. The Nets, in full on rebuilding mode, do not need to be committing to someone like Wallace, even if we appreciate his game. Not when he's a 30-year-old, possibly making five years and $30 million for a team that hopes to win 30 games. Not when Wallace, master of the all-out and at-times-dangerous (to himself) play, has averaged 36.6 minutes a contest since Sacramento Kings GM Geoff Petrie gifted him to the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2004 expansion draft.
And not just to save face, in the face of one of the more frantic and embarrassing trades in recent memory.
Because Wallace is opting out of that $9.5 million, though, it appears as if he's been given indication by the Nets that he'll have a home in Brooklyn starting in July. Which would blow our mind save for the fact that these are the Nets we're dealing with, and that they'd gladly sign a player they don't need to money they should be saving for others on a team that wouldn't properly utilize his talents.
Why else would Gerald opt out? History of concussions or not, he's a smart dude with smart representation, and he's not going to make a move like this without some assurance.
Which means it's a Netsies move, all over again, which is just so frustrating.
Yes, the embarrassment of the March deal for Wallace might sting a bit in columns like these in July should he decide to head elsewhere and leave the Nets with no compensation, but that's putting up with my smarmy take in July of 2012 when February of 2015 (or before, or after) is significantly more important. Take the hit now, Brooklyn, because you already panicked and made a bad move by selling that pick off for a player that, admittedly, will be better than whoever Portland takes at that spot for the next couple of years (at one-third the price, though). There's no reason to complicate it by attempting to save face again, in the face of fans that know better, in 2012. Even if whatever contract you sign Gerald to is movable, you still have to move him for similar or smaller salaries in return.
For Wallace? We get it. You've worked hard, and you deserve the security. I just wonder if, in the absence of an unwritten guarantee from the Nets, you might be best served nearly making eight figures in 2012-13 before moving on to what can't help but be a similar, final long-term'ish contract in 2013. The league respects you. They know.
Hopefully it's not too late. For all involved.