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Take him or leave him?

Six NBA general managers size up the enigmatic Rasheed Wallace

He's back.

Rasheed Wallace returns to the Trail Blazers tonight for their home game with the Chicago Bulls. He served a seven-game NBA suspension after a Jan. 15 altercation with referee Tim Donaghy outside the Rose Garden.

The Tribune polled six NBA general managers, asking them for frank, off-the-record observations on Portland's enigmatic power forward.

All six GMs, who spoke on condition of anonymity, consider the 28-year-old Wallace a standout player. Four of the six said they wouldn't be interested in acquiring him for their club; two said they wouldn't rule it out.

Tribune: What about Wallace?

GM 1: 'A hell of a talent who has helped his club win games. That said, he has serious lack-of-control issues. Great player, balanced with the fact he needs to control his temper. How to do it? Wow, you're waving a magic wand there.'

GM 2: 'You have two situations. First, there is the business side, where you say he's being paid X amount of dollars; and because he takes such a big bite from your salary cap, that prevents you from acquiring somebody else. Second, is he a very good player? Absolutely. Does he get along with his teammates and not play selfishly? He seems to be OK on both of those. Yet he has his dark side.'

GM 3: 'A very talented guy with a history of not being able to maintain his composure, which is the biggest factor in where he is in his career. Would he do better in a different environment? Some guys do; others don't change at all. You pay your money and take your chances.'

GM 4: 'One of the best talents in the game, with versatility. He's so long, he creates all kinds of problem. A European player before European players existed in terms of skills. But the behavior is a concern, to have someone so important to your team with that kind of volatility. You hear he's a sweetheart off the floor, but that doesn't jibe with what you see.'

GM 5: 'There is obviously a terrific talent there, but he has made a number of mistakes. It's like Wayne Embry (former GM) once said: 'Players win games, but people win championships.' But there will always be somebody who will have interest in him because of his talent.'

GM 6: 'The things I've heard are that he is a great guy off the court, a good family man. But he is an enigma in a lot of ways. It's not like he's some rotten guy you don't want. But he has been getting out of control for a long time.'

Tribune: Would you want him on your team?

GM 1: 'You mean if the guy is a hell of a talent and his teammates like him, but with serious anger-management issues? I would investigate it. I would talk to coaches and so on and determine whether you could help the player turn his attitude around. I once had (a major player with drug problems). Was it worth the risk bringing him in? Yeah, in the year or two he controlled himself, he was terrific.'

GM 2: 'Probably not. It would be difficult for our coaches and players to put up with. They would feel he is putting himself ahead of the team.'

GM 3: 'No. We have a mature team with a solid sense of who we are and how we want to play and how we want to fit together. I wouldn't take a chance on a guy who could disrupt that.'

GM 4: 'The answer is a quick no.'

GM 5: 'Not in our situation, with our youth. There is enough poison in the league.'

GM 6: 'I'd be interested if I thought I could help him, because he is a great player.'

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