Friday, March 11, 2011

On Gerald Wallace, and recent free-ish agents

In the past year, there's been much hand-wringing over players having "too much" power. Lebron James set off the talk, by choosing to move to Miami to work while he was not under contract with any other employer.

In response, Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cavs, wrote an angry missive in Comic Sans calling James a "traitor" and various other names, and posted the letter to the front page of the Cavs website. Dan Gilbert, (ostensibly) an adult, directing other adults to be angry at an adult who was completely free and had no unfulfilled obligations, for exercising that freedom.

Message: players are supposed to be loyal to their teams.

Sidenote: Carmelo Anthony didn't "force" a trade. He was decent enough to give the Nuggets warning that he might leave as a free agent (which Lebron was criticized for not doing), and used his impending free agency as leverage in trade and future contract negotiations, like any responsible smart person ought to do.

So what does all of this have to do with Gerald Wallace?

In the summer of 2007, Gerald Wallace signed a contract for 6 years and $57 million with the Charlotte Bobcats. This was the same summer that Rashard Lewis, who wasn't then and isn't now as good or productive a player at the same position as Wallace, signed a 6 year contract for $118 million. It was clear to observers that Wallace could have made much more as a free agent than the contract he signed with the Bobcats, and even that he could have received a bigger contract from the Bobcats, had he insisted. At the time, Wallace stated that he just enjoyed living and playing in Charlotte, and was interested in staying and not making a big fight over the contract.

It was loyal. It was admirable. It was understandable (not everyone likes moving). I'm sure Wallace thought that he could stay in Charlotte for the rest of his career.

In the years since signing that contract, Wallace has done everything a fan could ask from a favorite player. He's improved his game and become an all-star. He's played harder than anyone else. Even when he got injured, the injuries were from playing too hard, too often -- he didn't get wear and tear injuries, pulled muscles, etc.. No. He accumulated a collection of concussions, collapsed lungs, broken ribs, separated shoulders, and other violent injuries that resulted from his recklessly throwing his entire body and being into every small moment of play, for no other reason than to hopefully help his team, and to entertain the people of Charlotte.

Gerald Wallace showed us what it looks like for a professional athlete to love his team, his job, and his city.

Last week, the Bobcats traded Wallace to the Trailblazers. Understandably, sad Gerald is sad:

"I felt like it was a stab in the back, something I that I totally didn't see coming," Wallace said. "I was comfortable here. I thought everything was good. We were starting to get guys back healthy and we were starting to make a push.

"My heart was here. My heart and soul were here and it's always been here for the last seven years."

Pay attention Cleveland. "I was comfortable here." Gerald Wallace is the down-to-earth, passionate player who wanted to stay. He was everything you said Lebron was not. If this had been the Cavaliers, would you be out expressing your anger by yelling and booing, by burning things, by writing hateful letters in absurd fonts?