Bobcats, Gerald Wallace Reach Deal

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Gerald Wallace and the Bobcats reached an agreement in principle that would keep the team’s leading scorer in Charlotte, executive vice president of basketball operations Bernie Bickerstaff said Wednesday.

“There’s still some paperwork issues to work out before we can get everything signed, but we’re happy,” Bickerstaff told The Associated Press. “It’s been a collaborative effort on both sides.”

Wallace, who turns 25 later this month, led the Bobcats with 18.1 points per game last season. He also averaged 7.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.0 steals in 72 games.

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Wallace became an unrestricted free agent last month, and the Bobcats faced heavy competition in their efforts to re-sign the forward. But Bobcats part-owner Michael Jordan had said keeping Wallace was one of the team’s top offseason priorities.

“Gerald’s excited to go back to Charlotte and be a part of a young, athletic team with an ownership group committed to building a winning team,” Wallace’s agent, Rob Pelinka, said late Wednesday.

Bickerstaff and Pelinka declined to disclose any details of Wallace’s contract.

At least eight teams had pursued Wallace once the free-agency period began July 1. But Wallace, who was one of the Bobcats’ first players, said late in the season that he wanted to stay in Charlotte.

Wallace spent three seasons with the Sacramento Kings after they made him their first-round draft pick in 2001. The Bobcats then picked the 6-foot-7 Wallace from the Kings’ roster in the 2004 expansion draft. Since then, Wallace has blossomed after being a reserve at Sacramento.

Wallace posted the best offensive season of his career last season after averaging 11.1 and 15.2 points in his first two seasons with the Bobcats. He also became the first NBA player in 14 years to average 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals in a season.

Re-signing Wallace will mean an even stronger roster for the Bobcats, who already acquired shooting guard Jason Richardson from the Golden State Warriors last month and re-signed free agent guard Matt Carroll.

Though the deal with Carroll was announced last week, Bickerstaff said Wednesday that some paperwork issues still needed to be resolved. Agent Paul Nadel said last week that Carroll is expected to sign the deal after he returns this week from a trip to China.

The Bobcats have yet to reach a long-term deal with power forward Emeka Okafor, who is eligible to receive an extension of his rookie contract. Charlotte has until Oct. 31 to sign an extension with Okafor, who averaged 14.4 points and was the team’s top rebounder with 11.3 per game.

Bickerstaff said Wednesday that talks with Okafor are the team’s “next order of business.”

“We want to start that dialogue soon,” he said.

A service of the Associated Press(AP)