Wallace not expected back soon

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Bobcats don't expect top scorer Gerald Wallace to return until sometime after this month's All-Star break as he recovers from a partially collapsed lung and broken rib.

Wallace was somewhere in middle America in a charter bus on Wednesday while coach Larry Brown put the Bobcats through a 2½-hour practice. Wallace was finally cleared to leave Los Angeles following his injuries against the Lakers on Jan. 27, but won't be cleared to fly until at least Feb. 11.

Wallace, who left Tuesday on the 2,400-mile trip, was expected to arrive in Charlotte late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Brown said Wallace hasn't been able to do any physical activity and didn't expect him back for at least two weeks -- and it could be much longer.

"We'll just have to see how he's feeling," Brown said.

Wallace, averaging 16.4 points, was injured on a flagrant foul by Lakers center Andrew Bynum late in the fourth quarter of Charlotte's double-overtime win. Wallace was hospitalized for two nights and doctors inserted a tube to help restore full function in his left lung.

Wallace was not allowed to travel until he met a specialist Monday. The doctor allowed him to return to Charlotte, but he won't be allowed to fly for at least another week because of concerns about how his lung would handle the reduced air pressure of airplane cabins.

Hence, the cross-country trip by bus.

"I keep thinking about that movie ["RV"] with Robin Williams and his family," Brown said. "But he's got DVDs and his family with him, so hopefully it won't be too long."

Adam Morrison has struggled filling in for Wallace at small forward. The Bobcats could move Boris Diaw to that spot and start Juwan Howard at power forward, but Howard missed practice Wednesday with a sore toe.

The Bobcats, who lost the final three games of their West Coast trip without Wallace, got some good news with return of rookie point guard D.J. Augustin to practice Wednesday.

Augustin, who's missed the past 10 games with a strained abdominal, hopes to play Friday against Atlanta, but Brown said he "needs a lot of work" before he regains game shape.

"I'm not in any pain. Just a little bit of tightness from not doing anything," said Augustin, who first suffered the injury Jan. 6 and aggravated it four days later. "Hopefully I can get all of that out by this week."

Augustin's return would lessen the load for starter Raymond Felton, who has played no fewer than 36 minutes in each game since Augustin was sidelined.

"Sometimes fatigue kicks in," Felton said. "I'm definitely glad to see him back."

But Wallace's prolonged absence will leave the Bobcats searching for offense. They had climbed into playoff contention before their three-game losing streak.

"I talked to him. It's a long trip, but he'll be fine," Felton said of Wallace. "He's probably going to be out until after the All-Star break. ... It's a tough injury."