Bonzi Wells was on fire in the Rose Garden on Tuesday night. Especially in overtime. When he's on, this guy has a complete game, from high-arching three-point shots to impossible-to-defend, spin-a-rama moves at the low post.
Sacramento got a full dose of Bonzi, and the Blazers carved out a very important win for themselves in front of what passes these days for a full house in the Garden. The crowd, by the way, was as loud as it has been all season. They were loving it and verbally embracing Wells as he took over the game in the final minutes.
It was a lovefest, just a few weeks after Wells was turned into this city's Public Enemy No. 1 by his own organization. The Blazers, of course, made Wells the scapegoat for the scalding commentary about the organization in the Dec. 31 Sports Illustrated. Wells was quoted in the the piece, written by L. Jon Wertheim, and his words, in the minds of many fans, became the theme of the story.
'We're not really going to worry about what the hell (the fans) think about us,' Wells said. 'They really don't matter to us. They can boo us every day, but they're still going to ask for our autographs if they see us on the street. That's why they're fans and we're NBA players.'
As soon as the story appeared, the Blazers issued a public statement about Wells' quotes and managed to steer the controversy in his direction. While Wells was being forced to give one-on-one interviews of apology to every media hack in town, team President Bob Whitsitt was refusing comment, even though the article focused more on him than on Wells.
Wells, of course, was villified for his remarks. Unfairly, I believe. Although he didn't do a very good job of making his point, what he essentially said was what a good many pro athletes believe: I don't worry a bit about the fans because I know how to get them back on my side. Lose two in a row and they boo you, win two in a row and they're standing up screaming their heads off. How could I care about them when they've constantly shown how fickle they are?
You can argue with me, as long as you weren't one of those people in the Rose Garden standing and cheering Bonzi's every move Tuesday night. Many of those same people lustily booed Wells after the SI story came out. But now he was winning a big game for the home team, so all was right with the world.
And that's exactly why they're fans, and Bonzi Wells is an NBA player.