CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Charlotte Bobcats traded the face of their young franchise, Gerald Wallace, to the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday for a package that includes two first-round picks as owner Michael Jordan cuts payroll and eyes the future.
In a deal completed seven minutes before the trade deadline, the Bobcats agreed to part ways with the last original member of the 7-year-old franchise. The Bobcats acquired a conditional 2011 first-round pick Portland obtained from New Orleans and a conditional 2013 first-rounder from the Trail Blazers.
Also heading to Charlotte are center Joel Przybilla, reserve forward Dante Cunningham and center Sean Marks, who are in the last year of their contracts, and cash.
"Needless to say, this was a difficult decision for our organization," Jordan said in a letter posted on the team's website. "Gerald epitomized everything we want our team to be about and we cannot thank him enough for his contributions to the Charlotte Bobcats. As the trade deadline approached, we were presented with an opportunity that we felt was in the long term best interest of the team.
"The two first round draft picks we received will be part of the foundation that the future of this team will be built upon."
The Bobcats also sent backup center Nazr Mohammed to Oklahoma City for reserve forward D.J. White and the expiring contract of guard Morris Peterson. Forwards Dominic McGuire and Derrick Brown and guard Sherron Collins will be waived to make room on Charlotte's roster.
A person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Thursday night that Marks and Peterson likely won't play for the Bobcats and will eventually be released. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the moves were not official.
The 6-foot-7 Wallace, averaging 15.6 points and 8.2 rebounds, was taken in the 2004 expansion draft. He developed from a benchwarmer in Sacramento to an All-Star last season.
Bobcats coach Paul Silas said Wallace took the news hard.
"He wasn't very happy, kind of sad about it," Silas said. "He was doing everything for me. ... It's not a joyous day losing him."
While the Bobcats (25-32) shed the $21 million due to the 28-year-old Wallace over the next two years, they'll likely face a difficult task staying in playoff contention without him. They sit 1½ games behind eighth-place Indiana in the Eastern Conference.
"We also were able to secure players that we believe will continue to help us remain competitive as we strive to reach the playoffs this year," Jordan said. "At the same time, the contracts we acquired will afford us the flexibility to be aggressive during the offseason."
The move gives Portland another athletic scorer, rebounder and shot blocker just as Brandon Roy returned from knee surgery this week.
General manager Rich Cho said it would be up to coach Nate McMillan on whether Wallace will replace Nicolas Batum in the starting lineup and indicated Wallace could play some power forward. Wallace, a former NBA All-Defensive team member, has sustained at least four concussions in his career and has been reluctant to play that position in the past.
Cho said Wallace would take his physical Friday and it was uncertain if he'd play later that night against Denver. The Blazers (32-25) sit in seventh place in the crowded Western Conference standings.
"He is just the sort of talent we were looking for," Blazers owner Paul Allen said. "I'm sure our fans will embrace him and hopefully he can help us make some noise in the playoffs."
The Bobcats had been shopping Wallace for months, and the talks increased since Gerald Henderson's recent emergence. They had discussions with Cleveland and had been in on-and-off talks with the Blazers over the past few days, haggling over different combinations of players and draft picks.
Wallace had expressed a desire to stay in Charlotte right through Thursday's practice, which ended about three hours before the trade.
"I feel like I owe the city. The city doesn't owe me anything," Wallace said. "I was given an opportunity to showcase my skills here."
This is the second time since Jordan bought the team last year that the six-time NBA champion has sliced payroll from a team losing tens of millions of dollars a year.
Center Tyson Chandler was dealt to Dallas last summer for center Erick Dampier. Charlotte later voided Dampier's $13 million contract and waived him to get under the luxury tax threshold.
With two first-round picks and lowering their salary-cap figure by $8 million for next year, the Bobcats have more flexibility to reshape the roster. It's a departure from the past few years when Jordan was quick to trade draft picks for veterans.
The Blazers, already in luxury tax territory, took on even more salary while keeping their core rotation intact.
"I think that the moves today helps us in terms of our position in the Western Conference," Blazers President Larry Miller said.
The moves leave Portland with two open roster spots and limited depth at center behind Marcus Camby, who is currently rehabbing from knee surgery.
The 7-foot-1 Przybilla was averaging 1.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in 31 games, but will likely become Kwame Browns' backup in Charlotte. Mohammed, who was in the final year of his deal, will now join the athletic and talented Thunder.
Cunningham was averaging 5.1 points and 3.4 rebounds. White, who is due only $2 million next season, has played in 28 games and is averaging 2.8 points this season. The 33-year-old Peterson has not played in a game since Dec. 12.
AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.