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Once Overlooked, Now Hard to Ignore: Wallace Deserves All-Star Bid

Jan 27, 2010 – 1:00 AM
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Chris Tomasson

Chris Tomasson %BloggerTitle%

Gerald WallaceCheck out the 2004 Charlotte Bobcats expansion draft.

There was a Sampson. No, not Ralph. Jamal.

There was a Peja. No, not Stojakovic. Drobnjak.

There was a J.R. No, not Smith. Bremer.

But on that list of mostly forgettable names there was a Wallace. Maybe it wasn't Ben or Rasheed, but Gerald Wallace has a chance to go down as one of the all-time greatest picks in an expansion draft.

On Thursday, when East All-Star reserves are announced, it would be an injustice if Wallace doesn't hear his name called.

The 6-foot-7 Bobcats forward is the Swiss Army knife of NBA players. He can score inside and outside, rebound, block shots and D up. He isn't one of the most exciting players around despite being in the dunk contest during All-Star Saturday.

But Wallace's travel agent might want to book his flight out of Dallas on Monday, rather than Sunday, morning.

"I hope he makes the All-Star team,'' said Denver coach George Karl, who has watched Wallace average 22.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and shoot 3-of-4 from three-point range in two games this season against the Nuggets. "He's fought through judgment, criticism. 'You can't do this. You can't do that. You can't be on a winner.' He's proven a lot of people wrong the last few years.

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"How he plays is very impressive. He runs. He plays hard. He plays defense. He pounds the boards. He physically takes a beating a lot of nights. No matter how he plays, he acts like he enjoys it and comes out every night and wants more.''

Wallace received ample criticism after he looked like just another raw athlete entering the the NBA way too early. Wallace was taken with the No. 25 pick in the first round of the 2001 draft by Sacramento after playing one season at Alabama and not even averaging double-digits in scoring (9.8).

It was the absolute wrong team to join. The Kings were a seasoned NBA outfit who would make the Western Conference finals in Wallace's rookie season and be among the league's elite for several more years after that.

Wallace barely played, averaging just 3.4 points his first three seasons. With the Bobcats about to enter the NBA in 2004, Wallace approached Sacramento officials.

"They were headed in (one) direction and I was looking for a new start,'' Wallace said. "I asked them to put my name in (the expansion draft).''

Foolishly, the Kings listened.

With the departure of center Emeka Okafor last summer, Wallace is now Mr. Bobcat (he'd be Sir Purr if that nickname wasn't already taken by the mascot of the Carolina Panthers). He's the only original Bobcat remaining from the team's first season.

Wallace has been filling up the stat sheet since his arrival in Charlotte. But now the Bobcats, 22-22 after Tuesday's 114-109 overtime win at Phoenix, are finally doing some winning.

With that in mind, Wallace has a good shot at being named the first All-Star in team history.

"I hope so,'' said Wallace, averaging 18.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.60 steals and 1.21 blocks. "To be the first, it would mean a lot not just for the team but just to show the league the growth that I've had in my nine years and the improvement that I've made. That would be a good accomplishment. ... We're having a pretty good season so that carries a lot more weight (with the voting coaches).''

Bobcats coach Larry Brown couldn't vote for his own players for the All-Star Game. But Brown sure likes what he's seeing out of Wallace.

"He's had a phenomenal year,'' said Brown, who has led the Bobcats to respectability since taking over before last season. "He defends every night. He plays hurt. He's second in the league in minutes played. If he played for Nellie (Golden State coach Don Nelson), he'd probably play every minute of every game. He rebounds, scores the ball and he's improved in every area. So hopefully coaches around the league will recognize that.''

Where Wallace really has picked it up this season is with his rebounding, having raised his average from 7.8. It's certainly helped that the glass-devouring Okafor is no longer around.

There have been only four NBA players (Nate Thurmond, Alvin Robertson, Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson) to have a quadruple-double. If you want a candidate for the next one, how about Wallace? His career highs are 40 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, eight steals and six blocks.

Follow NBA FanHouse"There's nothing that he really can't do,'' said Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups. "He doesn't have very many weaknesses. He definitely should be an All-Star.''

Wallace already is one of the biggest expansion draft heists in Charlotte history. The reason he can't yet be dubbed the biggest is the Charlotte Hornets plucked Dell Curry out of the 1988 expansion draft. Curry was a long-range shooting star for 10 Hornets seasons, winning the NBA's 1993-94 Sixth Man Award.

Curry, now a Bobcats television analyst, never played in an All-Star Game. But he figures to be going to Dallas to see his son, Golden State rookie guard Stephen Curry, play in the Rookie Challenge.

Curry might want to stick around throughout the weekend to see Charlotte's other expansion draft steal play in the real All-Star Game.

Chris Tomasson can be reached at tomasson@fanhouse.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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