Gerald Wallace Is The Key For Portland’s Present And Future

Tuesday brought another Portland victory, this time over the Clippers, at the Rose Garden, where the Trail Blazers are undefeated at home this season. After Brandon Roy‘s retirement, news that LaMarcus Aldridge underwent heart surgery in the fall and another Greg Oden injury setback, things in Portland are perhaps unforeseeably sunny right now after an early December of discontent.

But Tuesday, The Oregonian‘s Jason Quick reported forward Gerald Wallace will not seek an extension to his contract this season. His deal ends in 2012-13, but he can opt out after this season to become an unrestricted free agent. He wants to get his money, and the new CBA can only offer two years – not the former four – for an extension. Quick spells out the advantage for Wallace:

Wallace has not made a decision on whether he will opt out of his contract or accept the $11.4 million for the 2012-13 season. An advantage to opting out is this summer figures to feature more than 10 teams who are under the salary cap, creating a potentially lucrative free agent market. Plus, at age 29 with a family that includes four children, Wallace would like to establish long-term security as soon as possible.

It’s not the same as saying he’s gone from Portland, however. Wallace, Quick reported, is open to retiring as a Blazer – and that’s exactly the course Portland should take. Crash brings the toughness that Roy brought on his best nights, acting as a de facto enforcer. Roy’s loss was enormous and emotional for Trail Blazer fans, but Wallace has filled that void better than anyone could have expected. He’s averaging 15.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 56 percent shooting this season.

Wallace also provides protection from double teams for Aldridge like a No. 5 hitter behind cleanup, and has been reported to be the consummate teammate. (In some ways, he’s so respected by Nate McMillan that he broke his no-headband team rule for him.)

The Blazers didn’t want to get into a bidding war and had started talks with Wallace’s agent about a quiet extension. Now that it’s clear he wants to test his market value, Portland could find themselves in a bidding war, which makes owner Paul Allen‘s comments in December in a rare media exchange more interesting for tea-leaf readers. He hinted at being more conservative with money, saying he’d lost “hundreds of millions, let’s be clear.”

“So I’ve invested a lot, but the crazy luxury tax days and all those things, those are gone. … With the carefully, newly crafted luxury tax, hopefully they are gone for everybody and everybody is on a much more level playing field.”

Will Allen pay big money for Wallace with Roy and Aldridge’s deals still on the books? It might seem to go against his wish to pay less for a winner. But Wallace, after not-quite a year in Portland, has proven he’s one of the most important keys to Rip City staying at or near the top of the West.

What do you think? Should the Blazers re-sign Wallace at any cost?

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