Gerald Wallce: Small-town kid with big-time goals

PORTLAND — The sign from the Rose Garden stands said it best: “Crash Landing.”

Gerald Wallace still hasn’t played a game since Charlotte traded him to the Trail Blazers Thursday, but Friday, the 28-year-old known as “Crash” did step into the Rose Garden for the first time as a member of the organization.

The face of the Bobcats for years, Wallace addressed the media with the poise of a leading man, even if his self-description contradicted that aura.

“I’m just a small town kid that loves to play basketball,” he said.

But that small-town kid has developed a relatively big-time game. An All Star and All NBA Defensive first team selection last season, Wallace comes to Portland advertised as a scrapper who can produce at both ends of the floor. Whether it’s defensive versatility or create-your-own-shot scoring, the 6-foot-7 forward has little to prove when it comes to his ability.

But how does he see himself fitting into the lineup? What specifically does he see himself contributing?

“I pride myself on doing the things that need to be done to win a ball game,” Wallace said. “I don’t sit here and think ‘I’m a great defensive player,’ ‘I’m a great offensive player,” I’m doing what the team needs me to do.”

Wallace said he was “shocked” to find out he was traded — that he took a nap after practice Thursday morning upon being told there was no deal. While snoozing, however, his wife saw on television that he had, in fact, been moved, and informed him when he awoke.

Once the shock wore off, however, he said he grew excited after looking at the pieces he’d be joining in Portland. And while sporting a pair of what had to be six-figure diamond earrings, Wallace spoke as though there might be more jewelry in his future.

“It’s exciting to be part of a team that’s in the hunt not only for a playoff berth but a championship,” Wallace said. “I don’t know that they really need much from me aside from effort.”

Wallace’s 15.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this year are down when compared with season’s past, prompting some to think that his body might be deteriorating. His nickname, however, did come from Bobcat team doctors who advised him that taking the occasional turnover was a better option than diving into the stands for every loose ball.

But Wallace insists that any hindrance in his recent performances was the result of a bum ankle that has recently healed. He also is a notorious head-band wearer, an accessory once banned by Blazers coach Nate McMillan.

Coach made an exception with this one, though.

“He can wear a headband,” McMillan said.

Nicolas Batum is the Blazer most likely to be affected by the addition of Wallace — both being versatile small forwards who can score and guard multiple positions. But Batum didn’t sound as though he felt threatened by his teammate, instead lauding him as a “model” from whom he can learn.

Brandon Roy didn’t sound too displeased with Wallace joining the squad, either.

“He brings a lot of energy. He’s a slasher. He can get to the basket, give us some toughness in the paint, and he’s also a guy that can play the the 3-4 and defend a number of positions,” Roy said. “Every time I’ve ever had to play against him I had to go ‘OK, let me get ready to battle this guy’ because he plays so hard, he’s such a tough competitor. There’s a part of me that’s excited to have him on my team.”

Wallace is expected to play Sunday and will most likely come off the bench.

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