Wallace impressing new Bobcats coach Brown

Updated: October 1, 2008, 5:55 PM ET
Associated Press

WILMINGTON, N.C. -- A year after signing a lucrative free-agent deal that kept him in Charlotte, Gerald Wallace was suddenly on the trading block.

As the draft approached in June, the Bobcats were discussing numerous deals for their small forward as they looked to acquire a big man and a point guard. The trade talks continued throughout draft night, leaving one of the two remaining original Bobcats with an uncertain future.

Wallace had to be anxious, worried, and perhaps angry, right?

"My agent called me and he had talked to [GM] Rod [Higgins] and those guys ..." Wallace said. "I said, 'Well, I'm in Alabama with my kids. Call me if I've got to move.' That was it."

Wallace didn't have to put his house on the market, and on Wednesday received a gushing review from new coach Larry Brown.

"My whole career, guys like him have been the backbone of every team I've coached," said Brown, who has run a record nine NBA teams. "Athletic guys that can run the floor, that can defend, can rebound. Not necessarily shooters, but just basketball players."

It doesn't mean Brown isn't trying to tweak a few things. While Wallace ranked fifth in the NBA with 131 steals last season, -- he led the league in 2005-06 -- his gambling style doesn't suit Brown's team defense philosophy. Many believe that was one of the reasons Wallace was shopped this summer.

"He's trying to break me out of the one-man defensive thing," Wallace said. "He wants all five guys to play defense. ... If you go for those steals and miss and the way you're going to leave your teammates hanging."

But in a league dominated by explosive wing players such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, a quick, versatile 6-foot-7 forward who can defend -- and make those players guard at the other end -- is critical.

"You need a guy that can guard them, can guard a post player and guard a guy out on the perimeter," Brown said. "He's got a chance to do that."

Entering the second year of six-year, $57 million deal, Wallace has gone from being a little-used reserve in Sacramento that was exposed in the expansion draft to averaging a career-high 19.4 points last season despite missing time with concussions.

But Wallace has some habits that he's got to change to please the demanding Brown. Wallace can be erratic, he gets overly aggressive and ends up out of position on defense, and he's gotten worn down in recent seasons when he was forced to play power forward.

Brown is determined to keep Wallace at small forward this season. And through two days of training camp, Wallace has wowed his coach.

"I'm really impressed with him. He's got the athletic ability, the quickness and grit to be a phenomenal defender," Brown said. "He should be as good a rebounding small forward as there is in the league. I think by accident he'll just score running on the break, going to the board. He's a much better passer than I ever imagined."

Brown acknowledged they did consider trading Wallace, but said many of the discussions were initiated by other teams.

"As soon as I got the job a lot of my friends started calling me about him," Brown said. "I had a lot of guys that are general managers that I'm close to, or coaches. A lot of guys were calling us about him."

The Bobcats still need another big man, so perhaps Wallace's future in Charlotte isn't certain. But Wallace insisted any more trade rumors won't concern him.

"It makes you feel good that you're wanted in the NBA," Wallace said.

Notes

Former North Carolina coach Dean Smith watched the morning practice. Smith is expected to be in town all week, and Brown is looking forward to getting tips from his mentor. "Everything I know and believe in came right out of his mouth," Brown said. "I talk to him all the time and he always does it in a respectful way. I just miss seeing him coach." ... F Sean May was held out of some drills in the morning practice as part of his recovery from knee surgery. ... C Ryan Hollins (groin) was sidelined for a second straight day. ... G Shannon Brown joined the team after missing Monday's practices to be with his girlfriend, who gave birth to a boy.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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