CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Charlotte Bobcats have agreed to trade forward Gerald Wallace to the Portland Trail Blazers for a package that includes two first-round picks as owner Michael Jordan cuts payroll and eyes the future.
Coach Paul Silas confirmed Thursday the deal made just before the deadline would also give the Bobcats center Joel Przybilla and reserve forward Dante Cunningham, who are in the last year of their contracts.
The Bobcats also sent backup center Nazr Mohammed to Oklahoma City for reserve forward D.J. White and the expiring contract of guard Morris Peterson.
Both trades were awaiting league approval to become official, and the Bobcats would need to trim two players to get to the 15-man limit.
Wallace, averaging 15.6 points and 8.2 rebounds, was the last original member of the Bobcats, taken in the 2004 expansion draft. Wallace developed from a benchwarmer in Sacramento to an All-Star last season and was clearly the face of the fledgling franchise on the floor.
Blazer management has high praise for Wallace
"I want to welcome Gerald to the Trail Blazers," Blazers Owner Paul Allen said in a prepared statement. "He is just the sort of talent we were looking for. I'm sure our fans will embrace him and hopefully he can help us make some noise in the playoffs.
"I also want to thank Joel, Dante and Sean," Allen said. "Joel has been a warrior for this franchise over the past six and 1/2 seasons and Dante has played an important role in the success this team has had this season."
Cho held a press conference Thursday to discuss the trade.
"I'd like to thank Joel, Dante and Sean for their hard work and professionalism while in Portland," said Cho. "We are very excited to add a player of Gerald Wallace's caliber to the roster and feel that his athletic, defensive-minded style of play will be a great fit for us."
Nate McMillan said "Gerald is one of the top defenders in our league, and a player who brings energy and effort to the floor every night," said Trail Blazers Head Coach Nate McMillan. "I also want to acknowledge how great Joel, Dante and Sean have been for us, and I wish them all the best moving forward.
Wallace had strong numbers for Bobcats
Wallace's numbers had tailed off some this season and he's due to make about $21 million over the next two years. Without Wallace, the Bobcats will likely face a difficult task staying in playoff contention, where they sit 1 1/2 games behind eighth-place Indiana in the Eastern Conference.
The move gives Portland another athletic scorer and rebounder just as Brandon Roy returned from knee surgery. Despite numerous injuries, the Blazers had won six straight before Wednesday's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and sit in seventh place in the crowded Western Conference standings. The Bobcats had been shopping Wallace for months. They had discussions with Cleveland and had been in on-and-off talks with the Blazers over the past few days, haggling over different combinations of players and draft picks.
Wallace had expressed a desire to stay in Charlotte right through Thursday's practice, which ended about three hours before the trade.
"I love the city of Charlotte. I love the fans," Wallace said. "I feel like I owe the city. The city doesn't owe me anything. I was given an opportunity to showcase my skills here in Charlotte."
It marks the second time since Jordan bought the team last year that the six-time NBA champion has sliced payroll from the team losing tens of millions of dollars a year.
The Bobcats last summer traded center Tyson Chandler to Dallas for center Erick Dampier, then voided Dampier's $13 million contract and waived him to get under the luxury tax threshold.
With two first-round picks and lowering their salary-cap figure by $8 million for next year, the Bobcats will have more flexibility to reshape the roster in the next few seasons. It's a departure from the past few years when Jordan was quick to trade draft picks for veterans.
Pryzbilla: It's "part of the business"
The 7-foot-1 Przybilla was averaging 1.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in 31 games this season, including nine starts. He sat out the team's first 18 games, recovering from a knee injury he first suffered last season and the stomach flu.
While rumors about the deal swirled Wednesday night, Przybilla started in Portland's 106-101 loss to the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers.
Afterward, Przybilla said that trades were an inevitable part of the business.
"It's been a great journey," he said. "If it's come to an end, I've enjoyed it."
Przybilla will likely replace Mohammed as Kwame Brown's backup. Mohammed, who was in the final year of his deal and recently lost his starting job, will now join the athletic and talented Thunder.
Cunningham, a second-round pick from Villanova in 2009, thanked Portland fans on his Twitter page Thursday. Averaging 5.1 points and 3.4 rebounds, the 6-foot-8 forward has recently been wearing a facemask during games after he fractured his right eye socket earlier this month in a victory over Cleveland.
White, who is due only $2 million next season, has played in 28 games and is averaging 2.8 points this season.
The 33-year-old Peterson has not played in a game since Dec. 12.