'Crash' Wallace comfortable in Portland
While living in a hotel is getting a bit old, at least Gerald Wallace is feeling right at home on the court with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Wallace was traded to the Blazers just minutes before the NBA deadline in February, and many wondered how the forward known as Crash would fit in as Portland made the final push for the playoffs.
Turns out he's getting along just fine.
''His name is no longer Gerald Wallace. He's MVP,'' said Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge. ''He's been big for us: talking charges, blocking shots, he rebounds well, making big threes. He's been huge for us.
''People told me how tough he was but you don't know how really tough he is until you see him play.''
Wallace is averaging 15.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 22 games as a Blazer this season. He's had four double-doubles in Portland and 18 overall, and he has scored in double figures in 10 straight games.
''He just makes plays, on both ends of the floor,'' Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. ''He plays fearless.''
But not so long ago, the trade to the Blazers caught Wallace completely off guard.
An All-Star last season, Wallace was acquired from Charlotte in a deadline deal that sent Joel Przybilla, Sean Marks and Dante Cunningham along with two first-round draft picks to the Bobcats.
He was the last original member of the 7-year-old Bobcats, joining the team via the 2004 expansion draft.
Wallace lamented when he got here that he took a nap after practice in Charlotte on Feb. 24 and when he woke up he was a Blazer. Today, he's over it.
''I'm good,'' he said recently. ''I think the team and the organization did a good job of making me feel welcome, making me feel at home.''
His arrival caused a bit of a stir because Wallace has a penchant for headbands - something coach McMillan had previously outlawed. McMillan broke the ice by wearing a headband to practice, and giving it to Wallace as his blessing.
There were also questions about forward Nicolas Batum's starting role once Wallace got acclimated in Portland. But Batum has responded well when he has come off the bench.
''I don't think about myself, I think about the team,'' Batum said. ''I want to win.''
Wallace, with his easygoing personality and subdued deep-baritone voice, made friends among his teammate quickly - evident in his banter with Aldridge after last week's victory at home over the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Aldridge joked that the Rose Garden crowd was chanting Wallace's name so loud he felt compelled to join in.
''They never chanted my name here,'' Aldridge laughed.
Wallace countered that he heard fans calling out ''M-V-P'' when Aldridge was at the free-throw line.
''Two people!'' Aldridge exclaimed.
About the only drawback that Wallace can see is living out of a hotel.
''This would be so much better if I knew I was going home and laying in my own bed and watching direct TV, or something like that,'' Wallace joked. ''It would be better if they had room service, but they don't even have that.''
The Blazers have two games remaining in the regular season. They host Memphis on Tuesday before visiting Golden State for the finale on Wednesday.
It is anyone's guess who Portland will face in the playoffs, as teams continue to jockey for seeding. If the Blazers win their final two games, they will secure the sixth spot in the Western Conference.
After the playoffs, Wallace plans to find a new place to live in Portland. Aldridge has some advice.
''Go ahead and buy that big house because you're gonna be here for a while,'' he joked.