Posted Mar 10 2011 7:55PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Calling it a "stab in the back" and "slap in the face," Gerald Wallace hasn't got over being blindsided by Michael Jordan's Charlotte Bobcats.
Back in Charlotte on Thursday for the first time since being traded last month to the Portland Trail Blazers, the last original member of the Jordan-owned Bobcats and the franchise's only All-Star acknowledged he's still adjusting to the most shocking event of his professional career.
"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."
And completely unexpected.
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."
Charlotte's second-leading scorer was dealt for three role players and two first-round draft picks, a move that saved the money-losing Bobcats about $21 million over the next two seasons. Jordan later told The Associated Press that "I love the trade" because it gives him financial flexibility to make future moves because, "we don't want to be the seventh or eighth seed" each season.
"He really loved this team," Silas said of Wallace. "It was unfortunate it had to happen but it did."
Wallace, though, thinks cutting payroll was the biggest reason for the trade and expressed dismay with how the situation was handled by Jordan's top lieutenant, 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 leftover friction made for a strange scene as Wallace practiced with the Trail Blazers on the Bobcats' practice floor Thursday in an arena that's erased almost all of his pictures, paintings and images of the 7-year-old franchise's most popular player.
The only sign of Wallace, who went from an expansion draft pickup to one of the top small forwards in the league, was an advertisement on a video board with him in a Blazers uniform promoting ticket sales for Friday's game.
Bobcats guard Stephen Jackson, who is set to return from hamstring injury Friday, expects his friend to get a standing ovation. Wallace thinks the night will be "emotional" but is unsure how he'll feel.
"I thought I was going to retire here," the 28-year-old Wallace said. "I actually thought that when I stopped wearing a Bobcats uniform I'd be done with basketball."
Now Wallace is trying to fit in as a sixth man on a new team.
"I think it still is an adjustment period, especially when you've been in a place as long as he had like here in Charlotte," Blazers center Marcus Camby said. "It was definitely tough on him."
But it's clear the Blazers, who sit in sixth place in the Western Conference, craved the athletic Wallace.
"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. 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)."
After a slow start, Wallace played a big role in his sixth game with Portland on Tuesday night, consistently going right at James and finishing with 22 points and nine rebounds in a victory over Miami.
"I think my main thing was trying to learn the plays and trying to get over the shock of the trade and everything," Wallace said. "It took me a week to do that. Once that settled down and reality set in, you just move forward."
Still, the pain was still evident as Wallace left the practice court Thursday afternoon to head to the unfamiliar visiting locker room at Time Warner Cable Arena.
"I felt like it was a stab in the back, something I that I totally didn't see coming," Wallace said. "I was comfortable here. I thought everything was good. We were starting to get guys back healthy and we were starting to make a push.
"My heart was here. My heart and soul were here and it's always been here for the last seven years."
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