Forward Wallace to become unrestricted free agent

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace will become an unrestricted free agent Sunday after deciding not to extend his contract for another season.

Gerald Wallace


Charlotte Bobcats


Wallace, who led Charlotte in scoring last season with 18.1 points a game, will explore all options, his agent, Rob Pelinka, said Tuesday.

Wallace made just over $5.5 million last season. He will likely command at least $10 million a season under a new contract that could run as long as six years.

Bobcats vice president of basketball operations Bernie Bickerstaff is expected to fly to Los Angeles to meet with Pelinka shortly after the negotiation period begins Sunday. New general manager Rod Higgins will also be involved in trying to lock up Wallace.

"Rod and Bernie have indicated to me and Gerald that re-signing him is a top priority for their franchise," Pelinka said. "Starting at midnight on July 1, Gerald and I will start evaluating his options and ultimately make a thoughtful decision on what his future will be."

Wallace, who turns 25 next month, said at the end of the season that he wanted to stay in Charlotte. But his free agency will be the first major test of owner Bob Johnson's declaration that he's willing to spend what it takes to be a winner.

Charlotte's $41 million payroll last season was by far the lowest in the NBA.

Wallace will likely have suitors, especially if other top free agents such as Vince Carter of New Jersey and Chauncey Billups of Detroit quickly re-sign with their teams.

Orlando and Milwaukee have salary-cap space to pursue a deal with Wallace, and other teams could try to work a sign-and-trade deal.

Bickerstaff declined to comment Tuesday about Wallace at a pre-draft news conference, and he didn't immediately return a phone call later in the day.

Bobcats part-owner Michael Jordan, who has the final say on all basketball decisions, has said re-signing Wallace was one of the team's top offseason priorities. Wallace has also been praised by new coach Sam Vincent, who was hired last month.

The 6-foot-7 Wallace, who turned pro after just one season at Alabama, rarely got off the bench in three seasons in Sacramento. But he blossomed when the Bobcats took him in the 2004 expansion draft and gave him a chance to play.

An athletic slasher, Wallace averaged 7.2 rebounds and had 144 steals last season while playing four positions.