• The Blazer 'power guard' spent the summer polishing his game
At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Bonzi Wells is built like a tight end. That's kind of the way he plays basketball, too. He moves well without the ball, has great hands and uses his muscle to great advantage.
'I call myself a power guard,' says Wells, who's actually starting at small forward these days for the Trail Blazers.
But with the Blazers, it's a matter of semantics. Is Scottie Pippen a small forward or a point guard? Is Antonio Daniels a point guard or a shooting guard?
The important thing is, Wells is a player. With Pippen rehabilitating his knee and Derek Anderson playing up a storm at shooting guard, Wells has been getting most of his minutes at small forward. No sweat, he says.
'In our offense, the '2' and the '3' are the same position,' he says. 'Don't matter to me. I feel comfortable either way.'
Coach Maurice Cheeks says he prefers Wells at small forward, though Wells is giving away several inches to his opponent most of the time.
'Bonzi can play '2,' but I like the matchup when he is against a '3,' ' the second-year coach says. 'If the other team posts him with a bigger guy, we can double team if we have to. Offensively, he can take them off the dribble.'
In Wednesday's 110-98 exhibition win over Seattle at Corvallis, Wells spent much of his time guarding 6-10 Rashard Lewis. Lewis never tried to post up Wells, but three times he stepped outside and shot over the shorter Blazer.
'He has 5 inches on me; he is going to be able to shoot over me a lot,' Wells says. 'The '2' and the '3' are the most skilled positions in the NBA. You are not going to be able to stop guys every night. As long as you make it tough for them to get to their spots and challenge the shot, you are doing your job.'
Wells is a willing defender but a no-holds-barred offensive player. Against a player his size, he is a terrific post-up threat, and he is one of the best in the league at moving without the ball and scoring around the basket.
Against the Sonics, he had 17 points and six rebounds and got up 17 shots in 27 minutes. On this Portland team, Wells will be the No. 2 scoring threat behind Rasheed Wallace.
'With the new (defensive) rules, you hardly ever have isolations anymore, because teams will bring a man over and stop guys from getting muscled,' Wells says. 'So I have to exploit my game and find other ways to score in the paint.'
Wells spent most of the summer in his hometown of Muncie, Ind.
'I could work on shooting all day, but I'm never going to be a 100 percent shooter,' he says. 'I worked on shooting, I worked on ballhandling, I worked on my body. Everything I could to make myself a better player.'
Don't try to get Wells to say he'd like to be an All-Star or average 20 points a game.
'Nothing individual for me,' he says. 'My only goal is winning the championship. That means our team wins, our organization wins, and our town wins.'
PURE POINT: Eric Piatkowski respects Jeff McInnis as a player, but the Los Angeles Clippers veteran says he prefers to have his team's current point guard, Andre Miller, as a teammate.
'Jeff is an absolute warrior, a guy who shows up to play every single night, but he is more of a 2 guard playing the point guard spot,' Piatkowski says. 'He really likes to shoot the ball and likes to score, and he is very good at it. But I need a point guard who is able to penetrate and is always looking to pass the ball. It's great to play with Andre, a true point guard who is unselfish and gets joy out of passing the ball. Now I concentrate on running my guy off picks and getting to the open spot, and I know the ball will be there.'
McInnis, incidentally, was part of a remarkable group of talent at North Carolina in the '90s. He came in with Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse as freshmen in 1993 and they played with senior Eric Montross. When McInnis was a junior, Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison and Shammond Williams arrived as freshmen. That's seven NBA players in four years.
'We always talk about it, what would have happened if everybody had stayed (for four years),' McInnis says. 'We went back for an alumni game in the summer, and our starting five was myself, Vince, Stackhouse, Rasheed and Antawn. That would have been our starting lineup one year. Everybody was going crazy about that.'
AMAL WHO?: Don't lie. When you heard the name Amal McCaskill included in the deal that brought Daniels to Portland, you had no idea who he was.
It was pretty much the same for the Blazer coaches, who very quickly learned that the 6-11 center can play a little.
McCaskill won't play a lot this season, but he is likely to make Portland's team or serve on the taxi squad, er, injured list. That says a lot because the former Marquette player is a late bloomer who has paid his dues.
McCaskill, who turns 29 on Oct. 28, wasn't a starter in high school until his senior year. He averaged 10.3 points as a senior at Marquette, played sparingly in Orlando as an NBA rookie after making the Magic as a second-round draft pick in 1996-97, then spent four years in the CBA and Europe.
Last season, he rode the bench for San Antonio, but coach Gregg Popovich called him one of the hardest workers he has had.
'I never lost sight of what I wanted to do,' McCaskill says. 'My game has matured, and I finally have the experience and confidence to know I can get the job done. Hopefully I'll get an opportunity to help this team.'
McCaskill, incidentally, was a high school teammate in Westchester, Ill., of William Gates and Arthur Agee, key subjects in the film 'Hoop Dreams.'
'The film crews followed us everywhere that year Ñ practice, the classroom, the lunchroom,' McCaskill says. 'We thought it was just going to be a documentary on PBS. Will was probably the most talented player I had ever seen up to that point. His game was head and shoulders above everyone else's. If he hadn't suffered a knee injury his senior year, he definitely would have gone on to the NBA. Agee had a lot of skills, but he kind of developed later.'
GOOD GIG: Check out Anderson's new red-and-white Nikes, with 'DA1' on the heels. He is one of five NBA players wearing Jordan brand shoes, which he has done since joining the league from the University of Kentucky in 1997.
After his senior year, Anderson met with Nike officials and Michael Jordan himself.
'He told me he wanted me to wear his shoe,' Anderson says. 'Character speaks for itself. He said he liked me and my game, and I felt great about it, especially since I missed so much time after I got hurt my senior year. Evidently, he did his research.'