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Wallace still adjusting to Blazer life

Veteran plays more power forward, but likes new teammates
by: Christopher Onstott Gerald Wallace, the Trail Blazers’ newest key addition, says banging inside at 6-7 and 220 pounds takes a toll, but he enjoys fitting into the Portland system of “demanding” and ”passionate” coach Natae McMillan.

Since arriving in Portland from Charlotte in a trade on Feb. 23, Gerald Wallace has had a lot of things to assimilate. A new team. A new coach. A new city. A new part of the country. A new role — as a reserve instead of a starter. After nine games, the 6-7, 220-pound forward is averaging 11.0 points and 7.9 rebounds in 36 minutes a game, shooting .414 from the field, .385 from 3-point range and .654 from the foul line. Now he has a new role — as a starter. Coach Nate McMillan inserted Wallace into the starting lineup for Tuesday’s game against Dallas, and he contributed eight points and five boards in the Trail Blazers’ 104-101 victory. The Blazers are 5-4 since the 28-year-old Wallace came aboard. He’ll be in the starting lineup again tonight against Cleveland at the Rose Garden. Wallace sat down with the Portland Tribune for a question-and-answer session regarding his 3 1/2 weeks in a Blazer uniform. Tribune: How was it to get your first start? Wallace: I felt good about it. But I was still kind of out of rhythm a little bit. It’s an adjustment. Other than that, it was fun to be a starter again. Tribune: You were a starter for all of your 6 1/2 seasons with the Bobcats. Then you get to Portland, and you’re coming off the bench. How was that? Wallace: It’s totally different. (As a starter), you’re in tune. For me personally, I try to sense the pace from the game at the start. Coming off the bench, the pace of the game is already pretty much set. You have to adjust to that. It’s totally a different mindset. Tribune: How do you think you have played for the Blazers so far? Wallace: I’ve played all right. I haven’t played up to my potential, but I’ve done OK. I’ve done some good things, and I’ve done some bad things. Tribune: You were a small forward both in Sacramento and Charlotte. With Portland, you have played a lot of power forward. Wallace: That’s been one of the biggest things. It’s an adjustment, especially when you’ve spent a whole season playing out on the wing. Then all of a sudden, you’re on the post, banging with guys under the basket constantly. At my size, it takes its toll on you. It’s not like I’ve never played there before, but it’s just an adjustment. I have to get more into a rhythm of playing it. It’s kind of OK with me playing the 4. But at some point, I would like to play my natural position. My style of play is being more out on the perimeter, out on the open floor, running up and down the court in transition. Tribune: How do you feel you fit with your new teammates? Wallace: I feel good about that. I’m feeling more comfortable with everybody. The guys are great. We’re all starting to get more comfortable with each other on the court. It’s been a transition, but it’s been a good one. Tribune: How has it been playing for McMillan? Wallace: It’s been great, but it’s been different. It’s been a transition coming from Larry Brown and then Paul Silas in Charlotte. Now it feels like I’m going right back to Larry Brown. They’re pretty much the same. Nate is pretty demanding in what he wants and what he expects from his players. Tribune: Is that the similarity with Brown? Wallace: Yeah, I just think the demeanor and the approach they take are similar. They’re passionate about the game, and they want the best from their players. They take it real personal. Every game hits them just as if they were playing the game themselves. Tribune: How do you feel about the way the team is playing? Wallace: I’m still trying to diagram that. I’ll know more after this week. On that last trip, we played two great teams, the energy level was up, and we won both games. Then we played one mediocre team (Charlotte) and another one (Atlanta) that was mediocre because they were missing (Al Horford), and we seemed to play down to the level of both of those teams. The main focus here is to have the same intensity we had against Orlando and Miami no matter who we play. Tribune: At your opening press conference you mentioned you were glad to be coming to a championship contender. Do you still feel that way? Wallace: I think so. We have some nice pieces here. But when I say championship contender, I’m not talking about this year. We have maybe eight or nine of the guys who are under 26 or 27, and it’s a good core of players. I’m not saying we can win a championship this year, but we can surely fight for one. And we’ll see what the future holds for us after that. Tribune: You’re still living in a Tualatin hotel. Your wife, Warneshi, remains in Charlotte with your youngest child. Do you plan to move to Portland full-time in the offseason? Wallace: We’re still debating, trying to figure out what we’re going to do. We’ll get through the season, and then we’ll have four or five months to figure everything out. Tribune: Have you enjoyed your reception here as a Blazer? Wallace: I always loved Portland’s fans. Back in my Sacramento days, the fans were always great, the house was always packed. The one thing about them, they always support their teams, through bad and good. Hopefully we can bring a lot of good here in the future. Tribune: What are your goals for the rest of the season? Wallace: To get in the playoffs and make some noise. That’s my main thing. Personally, to help this team move up a level or two. I think we can do that.