When the Portland Trail Blazers acquired Gerald Wallace for picks, Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, and Sean Marks, it was a move made by a team looking to make a deep push in the playoffs. With the full extent of Brandon Roy’s soon-to-be career-ending injuries unknown, Portland had combined the veteran presence of Wallace, Andre Miller, and Marcus Camby with up-and-coming talent in LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, and Wesley Matthews.
Wallace came into the City of Roses and won the hearts of Blazers fans everywhere with his tenacity, his heart, and his hustle. While his production dropped slightly from his peak, he still put up right around 15 and 7 with more than a full steal per game.
What happened to the team shortly after his arrival was an astounding implosion of the Blazers’ long-term goals. Both Brandon Roy and Greg Oden had career-threatening injuries, Camby was the victim of a Blazers fire sale, and the identity of the team fell apart.
When the Blazers traded Wallace for a draft pick and not much else, some questioned the move. Wallace may not have been in his prime, but he was producing. You could count on him. He never gave up.
Shortly thereafter, Wallace’s production fell off a cliff. His bruising, go-at-it style caught up with his body, and he went from fringe all-star, to lesser-than-average starter, to role player in a little over a year and a half.
The pick that Portland received in return for Wallace turned into Rookie of the Year and All-Star point guard Damian Lillard.
Now, Wallace’s season is done with a knee injury.
We’ve done it before, but it might be worth doing again: let’s praise Wallace for what he brought to Portland. He deserves it.
But let’s also praise what may be one of the best-timed series of trades involving one player in recent memory, and be thankful that the Blazers didn’t hold onto Wallace for even a moment longer.