Right or wrong, Wells speaks his mind (again)
You have to hand it to Bonzi Wells. You might question his past. You might not like his court demeanor. You might not even think he's playing good basketball. But the Trail Blazer tells it to you just as he sees it. Howard Cosell would have been proud.
A year ago, in the famed Sports Illustrated article, Wells said: 'We're not really going to worry about what the hell (the fans) think about us. They really don't matter to us. They can boo us every day, but they're still going to ask us for our autographs if they see us on the street. That's why they're fans and we're NBA players.'
Blazer management chastised Wells, forcing him to apologize through a series of interviews with the local media, but his words rang true.
Five weeks ago, after a 28-point loss to Sacramento, Wells addressed the problems with Portland's deep roster: 'We have a lot of guys, and it's tough to find your niche. I know I'm not in a flow, and it's tough to find it when you're not playing.'
After reading the comments, coach Maurice Cheeks called a team meeting, telling Wells and his teammates that such thoughts should stay private. To the outsider, Wells' remarks made a lot of sense.
On Wednesday night, after a 103-88 loss to Dallas, Wells took reporters through a rambling discourse that was part dressing down, part pep talk to Blazer fans, who have been less than enamored of the local quintet, for obvious reasons.
'It's tough to go out there and play hard when you don't feel anybody is supporting you out there,' Wells began. 'We need not only us, we need the fans to support us, to clap for us, to get into it, to get involved.
'Negative things happen when everybody is so negative around you. I know a lot of things are
going on around our team, but we are a family still. We need the fans to really support us. It's been tough, and I know it's a reflection on them, but we need them to stick with us through thick and thin, not just when things are bad (sic). We don't need nobody stepping on our neck.
'We need a group effort to turn this thing around. It won't take just 15 guys, we need 20,000-plus to turn it around. É I have confidence in the fans. I know how they are. I've seen it when it was Blazer crazy around here. I know it will get back to that. Once we start winning and start rolling, the love affair's going to be back.'
Whew! Again, love him or loathe him, Wells had the courage to state his convictions.
Problem is, Wells is off the mark this time. The Blazers have no one to blame but themselves for the state of the team. They have created the negativity that hovers like a low cloud.
The truth finally spilled out as Wells wound up his soliloquy, arriving at a vastly different conclusion: 'I think it's just us. If we go out there and play hard and put something on the court that gives the fans something to enjoy and get hyped up about, it's going to turn around. Until we go out there and play with the mental approach that we are going to play hard, it's going to be tough for us to really light it up.'
Until then, and until the Blazers get their off-court act together, there's just no getting around it. There are going to be a few necks stepped on.
Rasheed Wallace has been up and down this season, but he was a beaming ray of light on a dark night for the Blazers against Dallas. The 6-11 forward hit 15 of 24 shots and collected 34 points and 12 rebounds. He played hard, had only one brief dispute with officials and enjoyed one of his best games in a Blazer uniform.
'I wish he would play like that every night,' teammate Scottie Pippen said. 'He didn't rely on shooting from the outside. He gave us an inside presence. He got on the boards. If he gets numbers like that for us, most nights we are going to win the game. The rest of us aren't going to play as bad as we did Ñ I mean, none of the rest of us contributed what we need to.'
Your Tribune beat writer approached Mr. T after Wednesday's gem and asked for the favor of a couple of questions.
'Only got one thing for you, my man,' he said.
'Both teams played hard, and it was a good game.'
This is a version of the refrain he typically trots out. Near as we can figure, he does this so that when it comes time for the league to threaten him with a fine for not cooperating, he can say he indeed did speak with those dastardly representatives of the Fourth Estate.
'Never deal with you guys,' he said. 'No reason to. Never have, never will.'
But you did, earlier in your career.
'That was before I got burned,' he said, avoiding eye contact as always.
Did this happen in Portland?
Don't you think it would help your cause if you would occasionally allow reporters a little access?
'Don't need no help,' Wallace said. 'Don't care what y'all think of me. Only thing that would make any difference would be if my wife thought I should change. And she don't care, either.'
It's a strange phenomenon. After such a stellar performance, we would like to relay Wallace's thoughts to you, the fan, the one and same who buys the tickets and souvenirs that help pay for the Blazer co-captain's salary, which calls for him to make $16.2 million this season.
This one time, anyway, the Trib is pleased to be able to do just that.