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Wallace happy to be back, thinks Nets are a Top 5 team in East

New Jersey Nets' Gerald Wallace (45) goes up

New Jersey Nets' Gerald Wallace (45) goes up for a shot against Philadelphia 76ers' Andre Iguodala (9) during the first quarter. (April 23, 2012) Credit: AP

WASHINGTON -- Gerald Wallace didn't want to deal with a long, drawn-out process in this whole free agency thing.

As far as he was concerned, the sooner he could agree to a new deal, the better.

"Just go ahead and get it over with," the swingman said this afternoon on a conference call from Alabama, where he's running his third annual youth basketball camp. "I have more issues coming up over the summer and I didn’t want that to lag on throughout the summer, interacting with me during my camp and everything.

"Just so I can get it done, the more I can focus on the kids I have at camp, and working out and helping those guys out."

Wallace was one of the first players to agree to terms of a new deal once free agency began, and he wound up inking a four-year, $40-million pact with the Nets to return after getting shipped here from Portland for a first-round in that March trade deadline deal.

In April, before the team parted ways for the offseason, Wallace made his intentions clear that he was planning on opting out of the final year of his deal because he wanted some long-term security. GM Billy King suggested the two sides each wanted to get something done together, and they quickly did so, finding even ground.

However, Wallace said he wasn't so sure that things were going to wind up the way they did, particularly since Deron Williams' status still hadn't been resolved.

"I really wanted to stay in Brooklyn," he said. "I really wanted to come back and kind of work things out. But my main focus was having Deron. I’m going into my 12th year in the league, and I didn’t want to be in a stage where we were in a rebuilding process and starting all over with young guys.

"But the main thing is having support guys there and being able to compete now."

Wallace said he chatted with Williams a couple of times prior to the start of free agency, and seemed to get a vibe that Williams would choose to re-sign with the Nets.

"I was comfortable," he said. "I understood. I figured we’d get D-Will back. He really wanted to come back and I know we spoke about me signing back. Once I signed back, it went in our favor for getting him back. Then, I think getting Joe Johnson in a trade, that kind of sold him on to the idea that we were trying to go in.

"So my thing was just trying to get back and sign, and give him the confidence that I’d be back there with him."

With Williams' re-signing, the addition of Johnson, the re-signing of Brook Lopez and a few other moves King has made so far, Wallace thinks the Nets are already among a handful of teams that can contend in the Eastern Conference in 2012-13.

"I feel like have put ourselves pretty much up there in the Top 5," he said. "We haven’t proven anything. The teams that are ahead of us, they have already proven it. They have already been there, were in the postseason. Just by us looking this way on paper and then saying we have these guys, what they have done in the league doesn’t mean anything.

"We just have to go out and prove ourselves. But confidence-wise, I feel we are just as good as any team in the league. We just have to go out and perform every night and make that happen."

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