|Bobcats will likely have to pay up to keep Wallace|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 13 April 2007 05:56|
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -With every acrobatic dunk, athletic steal and off-balance jumper he makes, Gerald Wallace's price goes up.|
Wallace, an unknown benchwarmer three years ago in Sacramento, has become invaluable to the Charlotte Bobcats - just in time to stuff his wallet.
Wallace, Charlotte's leading scorer at 18.2 points per game, has averaged nearly 29 points the past five games. Earning just more than $5.5 million this season, Wallace will almost certainly opt out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
``If Wallace opts out, obviously you have to do something,'' Bobcats part-owner Michael Jordan said recently.
Wallace, who would make $6 million next year with his current contract, could command $10 million a year, or more, on the open market.
``I haven't even thought about it,'' Wallace said Thursday. ``That's something I leave up to my agent (Rob Pelinka). Once things are over, I'm looking for a place to go vacation. When he calls me and tells me it's time to deal with it, that's when I'll start thinking about it.''
But Wallace realizes now may be the best time to go on the market.
``I'm pretty sure it would be, but I like it here,'' Wallace said. ``Anything is possible.''
Wallace's hesitation stems from his fierce loyalty to the Bobcats, who rescued him from obscurity when they took him in the 2004 expansion draft. The 6-foot-7 Wallace, who played just one season at Alabama before turning pro, barely got off the bench in three seasons with the Kings. He never averaged more than five points or played in more than 54 games in a season.
But Bobcats coach and general manager Bernie Bickerstaff saw the untapped talent and gave him free rein to learn and make mistakes.
Wallace steadily improved. He averaged 11 points in his first year with Charlotte, 15.2 last season and has taken his game to a whole new level this year. A slashing forward who can score in traffic, Wallace also is seventh in the NBA in steals and averages 7.2 rebounds a game, second on the team.
``I kind of had doubts in the first few years in Sacramento, when I wasn't playing,'' said Wallace, who will turn 25 in July. ``I think it was more of me proving to myself that I can play in this league, that I belong in this league. The Bobcats gave me an opportunity to showcase that.''
Wallace knows only one way of playing: all out. And the style has led to hard falls and several injuries. Wallace dislocated his shoulder earlier this season and sat out practice Thursday with sore knees.
But Wallace's hard-charging style has recently produced numerous plays for the highlight reel. Wallace had three alley-oop dunks in the first half of Charlotte's win over Miami on Tuesday, and he was two assists shy of a triple-double in a win last week against Washington.
Wallace has 10 games of 30 or more points and has twice scored 40 or more.
``The things he does doesn't surprise me,'' Bobcats guard Raymond Felton said. ``Some of the acrobatic stuff surprises me at times. But just his play and the way he's been performing, that doesn't surprise me. He has that type of talent.''
A factor in Wallace's decision could rest on who replaces Bickerstaff as coach. Wallace has great respect for Bickerstaff, who is expected to stay with the Bobcats in the general manager's role and could be involved in Wallace's contract negotiations.
``I don't think the words can say what he's done for me as far as my career goes,'' Wallace said. ``Him taking a chance on me says it all. He gave me an opportunity.''
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