Wallace's increased performance leads to $57 million deal with Bobcats

Updated: July 19, 2007, 8:18 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Gerald Wallace signed his six-year, $57 million contract with Charlotte on Thursday and capped an expensive month for a Bobcats team pushing to make the playoffs next season.

Wallace's deal includes several incentives that could pay him up to an additional $2 million per season. The sixth year of the deal is a player option.

"Re-signing Gerald was our top priority this offseason," Bobcats vice president Bernie Bickerstaff said. "He has been with us since our inception, and his commitment to effort and willingness to lay it on the line night in and night out embodies what this team and organization are all about."

Wallace agreed to the deal last week, shortly after Charlotte acquired Jason Richardson in a draft night trade with Golden State. Richardson, expected to be the Bobcats' go-to scorer, is due about $51 million over the next four seasons.

The Bobcats also re-signed guard Matt Carroll to a six-year, $27 million deal and are trying to work out a new contract for power forward Emeka Okafor, who is in the final year of his rookie contract.

It's part of a change in philosophy for the Bobcats, whose $41 million payroll last season was the lowest in the NBA and led to accusations that owner Bob Johnson wasn't willing to spend what it takes to win.

That criticism has faded, with Richardson set to make more than $11 million next season and Wallace nearly doubling his $5.5 million salary from last season.

Wallace, who left Alabama after his freshman season, never averaged more than 4.7 points a game in his first three seasons in Sacramento. But the Bobcats gave him his first chance to play big minutes after they took him in the 2004 expansion draft.

Wallace, an athletic slasher and tough defender, steadily increased his scoring output from 11.1 points to 15.2 and a team-best 18.1 last season. Wallace also averaged 7.2 rebounds and two steals per game.

"Gerald is a true difference-maker with his ability to play both ends of the floor with the same energy and desire," Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins said. "When you look around the league, there are very few guys who have that type of talent."

Wallace opted out of the final year of his contract that would have paid him about $6 million to become an unrestricted free agent. He received interest from at least eight teams, but had said he wanted to stay with the Bobcats.

"I started my NBA career in Sacramento, but grew into the player I am today because of the opportunity that was given to me in Charlotte," Wallace said.

New coach Sam Vincent wants his team to run more next season, envisioning a speedy fastbreak with Richardson, Wallace and point guard Raymond Felton. The Bobcats, who went 33-49 in their third season, believe their new core will be good enough to put them in the playoffs for the first time.

"I think we're putting the pieces together to be one of the best teams in the East," Carroll said.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press