Who invited them?
• Wallace and Wells drop in on the Trail Blazers this week
As Bonzi Wells and Rasheed Wallace return on consecutive nights to the Rose Garden this week, it will be a little like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid revisiting the scene of their crimes in the Wild West. The chance for a heroes' welcome seems faint.
Wells, now with Memphis, plays the Trail Blazers on Wednesday while Wallace, playing for Detroit, will exhibit his new uniform Thursday. Since the Pistons have two days off between Monday's game at Utah and Thursday's contest in Portland, it may be that both Wells (playing) and Wallace (watching) will be in the house Wednesday night.
Public enemies No. 1 and 1A both departed Portland earlier this season in trades that signaled a new era in Blazer basketball. Gone is Wells, who flipped off fans, dissed his coach, tossed out racial epithets and loaded up on suspensions during his five-plus seasons in Portland. Gone is Wallace, who threw a towel in a teammate's face, dissed fans and media, threatened officials and loaded up on technicals during his 7 1/2 seasons with the Blazers.
The change of scenery was necessary, and so far each is getting positive reviews at his new venue.
Wallace left the Blazers Feb. 9 for Atlanta in the trade that brought Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Theo Ratliff to Portland. After one game with the Hawks, he was shipped to Detroit in the three-way deal that some experts believe makes the Pistons the favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.
Going into the Utah game, Detroit had won four in a row after losing its first two games with Wallace. In his first six games as a Piston Ñ including the bizarre debut at Minnesota in which he played only the first half due to a snafu with the league over his eligibility Ñ the 6-11 forward is averaging 10.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2 blocks in 28.7 minutes a game.
It would seem as if he left his shot in Portland. In his seven games with Atlanta and Detroit, Wallace was shooting .320 from the field (32 of 100) and .263 from 3-point range (5 of 19). Even so, Piston coaches bubble with enthusiasm at his effect on the team.
'Rasheed has been great for us, and he is going to be great for us,' says head coach Larry Brown, who pushed hard for the trade. 'He is not making shots, but he is doing everything else.'
Wallace is among plenty of familiar faces in Detroit with a North Carolina connection. Brown is a Tar Heel. So are assistant coaches John Kuester and Dave Hanners. And video coordinator Pat Sullivan was a teammate of Wallace's and roomed with him for a year during their time at Chapel Hill.
Herb Brown isn't a 'Carolina guy,' but the older brother of Larry Brown, now a member of the Detroit staff, was an assistant under Maurice Cheeks the last two years in Portland and knows Wallace well.
'Rasheed has really helped us,' Herb Brown says. 'He knows he doesn't have to do everything. I think he is comfortable with his role. And he has maintained his cool.'
Well, sort of. Wallace picked up his second technical as a Piston in Sunday's victory over the L.A. Clippers to add to his NBA-high 14 this season, giving him a shot at his fourth league technicals title.
As for the shooting woes, Piston coaches say they aren't worried.
'Maybe he is not getting the shots he is used to getting,' Herb Brown says. 'Maybe he is not completely comfortable with the offense. The ball is going to drop soon. He is too good a shooter.
'Rasheed runs the floor, he passes, he is unselfish. He just wants to complement his teammates. He can play three positions for us, and he is going to fit into the system we play. It sounds like a clichŽ, but Larry wants people to play the right way.'
Wells went to Memphis early in the season in a trade that brought Wes Person to Portland. In his 41 games with the Grizzlies going into Monday's date with San Antonio, Wells was averaging 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2 assists in 25.3 minutes a game while shooting .428 from the field and .289 from 3-point range.
The 6-5 shooting guard has come off the bench most of the season, but when Mike Miller went down with a back injury six games ago, Wells stepped in as a starter. Wells has scored in double figures and played 30 or more minutes in each of the six games for the Grizzlies, who went 10-3 in February to enhance their chances at the first playoff berth in franchise history. Wells had 14 points and eight rebounds in a 97-92 win over New Orleans on Saturday.
'Bonzi has been fine,' Memphis assistant coach Lionel Hollins says. 'He is a very athletic guy who has been much better than we thought defensively. Bonzi has all the ability an NBA player needs. He needs more consistency with his shot, obviously, but he has been working on it. Sometimes with an athletic player, you find he doesn't spend as much time working on things as he needs to.'
Wells has had no reported transgressions under veteran coach Hubie Brown.
'He has fit in,' Hollins says. 'You hear all the talk of what went on during his time in Portland, and you don't know what to expect. But he has been good with us, and his attitude has been fine.'
Miller was expected back for the San Antonio game, and he might reclaim his starting spot by the time the Grizzlies play Portland. If he doesn't start, Wells will be in the Memphis lineup against the Blazers at some point early Wednesday. The following night, Wallace will be a starter when the Pistons and Blazers collide.
It will be the first opportunity for Portland fans to let the pair know how they feel about them. A standing ovation seems unlikely.