Gerald Wallace is among the children of the trade deadline—those unfortunate players who can run no further than the rumor mill allows. Yet this year, despite the fact that Wallace had largely stayed out of the never-ceasing cycle of familiar names and trade destinations, he finds himself shipped out to a new team for the second straight season.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the New Jersey Nets have traded Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and their top-three protected 2012 first-round pick in exchange for Wallace, who will serve as something of a token in the team's efforts to retain Deron Williams.
New Jersey has given up a bit to import talent. The Blazers have consolidated things a bit, paved the way for an impromptu reboot and given in to their current downward spiral. But Wallace is the real story, as he not only serves as the best player involved in this particular deal but one who sadly has yet to find the setting in which he can fully thrive.
For a moment, Portland appeared to be such a place. The early-season Blazers were a perfect fit for Wallace's basketball sensibilities; his full-court brilliance was an essential part of Portland's renewed interest in pushing the pace, and his fill-in-the-gaps skill set allowed Nate McMillan to temporarily make the most out of an unconventional roster.
The brilliance of that honeymoon faded, though, and the nature of the relationship between Wallace and the Blazers revealed itself. When Portland thrived, Wallace was easily identified as the piece that put the Blazers over the top. Yet once other elements of the team's offense and defense began to break down (and boy, did they), Wallace's jack-of-all-trades skill set became less and less essential; there's so little good in putting a team "over the top" when "the top" is limited to mediocrity.
Unfortunately, Wallace will find no stability on the other side of this deal, where he'll still be the second-best player on a struggling team. But the contextual differences come in teammate skill set. Though LaMarcus Aldridge is able to create open looks for the Blazers by attracting attention to either the high or low post, such offensive machinations pale in comparison to the influence of an effective playmaker. Deron Williams creates shots for himself and his teammates at a truly elite rate, and though the Nets may not execute anything resembling a legitimate offense, Williams' influence alone will make things fairly simple for Wallace, who has long been a committed cutter.
And a committed everything, for that matter. The man rebounds, drives and defends with an unending vigor—the kind that should be rewarded with even the slightest taste of consistency. Yet Wallace's efforts have only been met with a standing reservation on the trading block, and now, a trade away from the only decent team he's ever played for.
The Blazers have very clearly proven that they're currently not of title-worthy construction, but if they have one particularly appealing attribute, it's that they're not the Nets. Even now, that team—armed with a legitimate star, some decent complementary players and now two solid draft picks—holds promise. But beyond a short-term showcase alongside a top-notch playmaker, what does Wallace stand to gain from a fresh start with a crummy team?
Wallace's search rolls on, and in truth, this deal likely won't mean much for his long-term prospects. It's a pit stop, but that such an admirable player is put through these kinds of ordeals is a bit of a shame in itself. A player option will serve as his release once Williams almost inevitably decides to leave the Nets, and only then, at 30, will Wallace finally have the agency to determine his future.
There will be no self-destructive loyalties, as were those that kept Wallace in Charlotte on a new deal and subsequent extension, through struggles and all. There will merely be a versatile player and the open market—a combination that might finally find a spectacular talent the place he should have been all along.