Wallace (lung) eyes Feb. 17 return

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In the past 10 days, Gerald Wallace had his lung punctured by his rib, spent two nights in the hospital and five more stranded in Los Angeles, where he got winded just walking across the street.

The Bobcats' top scorer closed out the harrowing, uncomfortable stretch with a 42-hour cross-country bus trip to Charlotte.

Yet Wallace is determined to be playing again in less than two weeks -- and holds no hard feelings toward Lakers center Andrew Bynum, whose flagrant foul caused Wallace's frightening injury.

"I see how it was a hard foul, a flagrant foul," Wallace said Friday in his first meeting with reporters since he was on the floor in pain on Jan. 27. "But for him to intentionally try to hurt me, I don't think that's the case."

Wallace spoke just over an hour before the Bobcats played Atlanta in their fourth game without their top scorer. His absence has derailed what had been Charlotte's best stretch of the season.

Wallace said there's "no doubt" he'll be ready after the Bobcats return from the Feb. 13-15 All-Star break, and Charlotte needs his 16.4 points a game and his energy to make a playoff push.

"He was probably playing his best basketball prior to getting hurt," coach Larry Brown said. "He gives us a lot of energy and athleticism. I guess of all the positions we probably struggle with losing a guy, it's his."

But Brown is happy that Wallace is quickly recovering after Bynum whacked him on a drive to the basket late in Charlotte's double-overtime win.

"I knew immediately when I felt contact that something wasn't right," Wallace said. "I think Ray [Felton] or someone came over and said get up. I said I couldn't because my ribs are broke."

What Wallace didn't know was that his rib had punctured his left lung.

"The main thing [the doctor] told me was because I was so young and such an athlete that the rib actually fractured and punctured my lung and then came back into place," Wallace said. "So that was the reason why it healed quickly. He pulled [the X-ray] up two days later and you couldn't even tell where the fracture had happened."

But doctors had to insert a tube into Wallace's chest to get his partially collapsed lung back to full capacity.

After being hospitalized two nights, Wallace was released, but had to stay in Los Angeles. His wife, Warneisha, flew to LA, and as they left the hospital Wallace knew his road to recovery wouldn't be easy.

"I think we walked from the hotel across the street and I got tired," Wallace said. "I told my wife, 'I'm tired. This isn't normal for me.' So I had to gradually do routine walks every day just to build up my lung."

On Monday, Wallace was cleared to return to Charlotte, but told he couldn't fly until Feb. 11 because of concerns about how his lung would respond in the lower air pressure in airplane cabins.

So the team arranged for a charter bus to take Wallace on a 2,400-mile cross-country trip to Charlotte. He left at 10 a.m. local time Tuesday and arrived in Charlotte at 7 a.m. Thursday.

"It was actually a great trip," Wallace insisted. "My family was with me. We had satellite TV, a bed in the back, a bathroom, snacks and drinks. So we watched cartoons half of the day and movies the rest of the night."

Wallace said doctors have told him his lung is back at full capacity. He's been cleared to do some running and light shooting, but can't have any contact.

"The pain is still there," Wallace said. "I can feel it every time I take a breath."

Wallace said Bynum left him a voice message apologizing for the foul. Wallace said he hasn't spoken to Bynum, who four days later suffered a knee injury and will miss eight to 12 weeks.

"He just apologized and wished me the best," Wallace said. "He told me to reach back out to him if there was anything he could do."

Wallace watched Friday's game from behind Charlotte's bench, eager to be playing again perhaps as soon as Feb. 17 in Orlando.

"It's frustrating because it seems like we just lacked energy," Wallace said of the Bobcats' play without him. "That's one of the things that I kind of pride myself on, being that guy for the team."