Bobcats keep top scorer Wallace with big deal

Updated: July 12, 2007, 3:28 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Gerald Wallace, the Bobcats' top scorer from last season, is returning to join Jason Richardson in the new-look Charlotte attack.

Gerald Wallace

Wallace

Forward
Charlotte Bobcats

Profile

2007 Season Stats
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
72 18.1 7.2 2.6 .502 .691

Wallace and the Bobcats reached an agreement in principle, 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."

The Charlotte Observer, citing an anonymous source, is reporting that Wallace and the Bobcats have agreed to a six-year, $57 million contract. The sixth year of the deal will be Wallace's option, and he can earn as much as $2 million each season in bonuses.

Bickerstaff and Wallace's agent, Rob Pelinka, declined to disclose any details of Wallace's contract.

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 to become the first NBA player in 14 years to average 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals in a season.

Wallace became an unrestricted free agent last month, and the Bobcats faced heavy competition in their efforts to re-sign the forward. Seven other teams contacted the free-agent forward when the NBA free-agency period began. Dallas, Orlando, Milwaukee, Detroit, Miami, Portland and Golden State all made inquiries.

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," Pelinka said late Wednesday.

Wallace made just over $5.5 million last season, but he opted out of the final year of his contract, which would have paid him about $6 million, to become an unrestricted free agent.

Wallace, who left Alabama after one season, 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.

The Bobcats took on the first big contract in their three-year history when they acquired swingman Richardson from Golden State in a draft-night trade. Richardson, who the Bobcats hope will be the go-to scorer they've been missing, is due about $51 million over the next four seasons.

The Bobcats believe a nucleus of Richardson, Wallace, power forward Emeka Okafor, and point guard Raymond Felton will get them to the playoffs next season.

The Bobcats also 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 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.