CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The Charlotte Bobcats traded the face of their young franchise, Gerald Wallace, to the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday for a package that includes two first-round picks as owner Michael Jordan cuts payroll and eyes the future.
In a deal completed seven minutes before the trade deadline, the Bobcats agreed to part ways with the last original member of the 7-year-old franchise. The Bobcats acquired a conditional 2011 first-round pick Portland obtained from New Orleans and a conditional 2013 first-rounder from the Trail Blazers.
Also heading to Charlotte are center Joel Przybilla, reserve forward Dante Cunningham and center Sean Marks, who are in the last year of their contracts, and cash.
“Needless to say, this was a difficult decision for our organization,” Jordan said in a letter posted on the team’s website. “Gerald epitomized everything we want our team to be about and we cannot thank him enough for his contributions to the Charlotte Bobcats. As the trade deadline approached, we were presented with an opportunity that we felt was in the long term best interest of the team.
“The two first round draft picks we received will be part of the foundation that the future of this team will be built upon.”
The Bobcats also sent backup center Nazr Mohammed to Oklahoma City for reserve forward D.J. White and the expiring contract of guard Morris Peterson. Forwards Dominic McGuire and Derrick Brown and guard Sherron Collins will be waived to make room on Charlotte’s roster.
A person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Thursday night that Marks and Peterson likely won’t play for the Bobcats and will eventually be released. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the moves were not official.
The 6-foot-7 Wallace, averaging 15.6 points and 8.2 rebounds, was taken in the 2004 expansion draft. He developed from a benchwarmer in Sacramento to an All-Star last season.
Bobcats coach Paul Silas said Wallace took the news hard.
“He wasn’t very happy, kind of sad about it,” Silas said. “He was doing everything for me. … It’s not a joyous day losing him.”
While the Bobcats (25-32) shed the $21 million due to the 28-year-old Wallace over the next two years, they’ll likely face a difficult task staying in playoff contention without him. They sit 1 1/2 games behind eighth-place Indiana in the Eastern Conference.
“We also were able to secure players that we believe will continue to help us remain competitive as we strive to reach the playoffs this year,” Jordan said. “At the same time, the contracts we acquired will afford us the flexibility to be aggressive during the offseason.”
The move gives Portland another athletic scorer, rebounder and shot blocker just as Brandon Roy returned from knee surgery this week.
General manager Rich Cho said it would be up to coach Nate McMillan on whether Wallace will replace Nicolas Batum in the starting lineup and indicated Wallace could play some power forward. Wallace, a former NBA All-Defensive team member, has sustained at least four concussions in his career and has been reluctant to play that position in the past.
Cho said Wallace would take his physical Friday and it was uncertain if he’d play later that night against Denver. The Blazers (32-25) sit in seventh place in the crowded Western Conference standings.