Welcome Gerald Wallace back to the Rose Garden. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Game 55 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Jersey Nets

Blazers; 25-29 (4th Northwest Division)

Nets: 19-36 (5th Atlantic Division)

Game Details: Rose Garden Arena Portland, OR. 7:00 PM. TV: CSN. Radio: 750 AM (KXTG)

Projected Blazers Starting Lineup: PG Raymond Felton (#5, 6’1”, North Carolina), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5”, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6’8”, MSB Le Mans, France) PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6’11”, Texas), C Joel Przybilla (#10, 7’1”, Minnesota)

Projected Nets Starting Lineup: PG Deron Williams (#8, 6’3”, Illinois), SG MarShon Brooks (#9, 6’5”, Providence), SF Gerald Wallace (#45, 6’7”, Alabama), PF Kris Humphries (#43, 6’9”, Minnesota), C Johan Petro (#27, 7′, Pau Orthez, France)

Because the trade deadline stuff was so insane and this season’s pace has been so break-neck, I never really got a chance to get down my thoughts about the Blazers losing Gerald Wallace. I’m going to take the time to do that now, not in lieu of a regular preview but more as an added bonus. I’ll do the same next week when the Home Coming Tour 2012 returns with Marcus Camby and the Houston Rockets.

Since Crash was dealt to New Jersey for a really good pick and a guy that’s already not a Blazer and a guy that will probably never really be a Blazer, I’ve been plumbing my personal creative depths to come up with a metaphor that most aptly fits Gerald Wallace’s time in Portland, a period that was so brief it will most likely show up as little more than a blip on Gerald’s personal NBA timeline and in the history of the Blazer organization as a whole.

I was unable to come up with anything. I got close when I thought he could be compared to a friend you would make at summer camp. In that scenario, the Blazers’ relationship with Gerald was like the one that shines in a setting that is isolated from reality, where two people see each other every day for a short period of time and decide that they’ll be best friends forever, but then when life returns to business as usual things aren’t as wonderful as they might have seemed.

This analogue loses steams as it stretches out. For instance, it only makes sense if the camp in question is a day camp and the friends in question go to the same school or see each other outside of a camp-style setting. It also falls apart because it implies that Wallace and the Blazers had some kind of falling out, which they didn’t.

Therefore the best way to deconstruct the Gerald Wallace era might just be to look at it literally. Wallace didn’t work out as a Blazers due to timing. It’s as simple as that. Portland gave up Gerald Wallace because his value was higher in a trade than it was in having him on the team. Some will speculate that Wallace thumbed his nose at management when he said he was going to test the free agent waters, or that he was shipped because he gave up on the season.

I don’t agree with either of those opinions. In my eyes, Crash was always a great pro. He played hard every night, even when he didn’t play well, and he decided to try free agency because that’s where a guy gets paid for the work they’ve put in.

When Gerald comes back to the Rose Garden on Wednesday, he’ll get a big ovation. He deserves it. I don’t have a specific favorite memory of Gerald as a Blazer, but I will say this, he was always fun to watch. What I really think about is how great the Blazers could have been if Kevin Pritchard had flipped Joel Przybilla and a low rotation guy for Gerald Wallace in the early spring of 08-09.

With Crash starting alongside a healthy Brandon Roy, and Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez anchoring a killer offensive second unit, that Blazer team would have pasted the Houston Rockets.

But that’s kind of what we’re left with when it comes to Gerald Wallace, wondering about what could have been, and speculating as to why it wasn’t better than it was.

As for Thursday’s game, beyond Gerald Wallace and future Blazer Deron Williams, the Nets aren’t much of a team. A solid 48 minutes from Portland, and they’ll get this win. Of course a win isn’t what this team needs, especially not against New Jersey. Everybody knows if Portland wins tonight they’re back in the Playoff race and the Nets automatically get the number one pick, which is protected and won’t go to the Blazers. My suggestion to Kaleb Canales is play one on five with only Hasheem Thabeet on the floor, that will guarantee the best possible outcome: a 45-point Blazer loss.

Email me: [email protected]

Twitter: @mikeacker | @ripcityproject

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