Blazer officials back up the talk
However, no more blockbuster trades are likely until summer
Bonzi Wells is gone, and the message from his former team was simple: Don't let the door hit your backside on the way out of town.
Wells departed a pariah, and the Trail Blazers got nothing close to equal value for him in a trade that could cause the talented shooting guard to lapse into a series of blackouts sometime soon.
But such was the missive that Portland management was delivering to its players, and especially to its fan base.
'It is key for the fans to understand that we are listening and following through on what we said we would do,' Blazer President Steve Patterson said at a news conference announcing Wells' departure for Memphis in exchange for Wesley Person, a future first-round draft choice and $1 million in cash.
The cash considerations are indicative of the Blazer organization's change in policy. When has Paul Allen ever been on the receiving end of cash in a deal? It wasn't that long ago the Blazer owner sent $7 million to Toronto in the trade that brought Damon Stoudamire to Portland, a factor in the NBA's eventually deciding to limit the amount of money that could exchange hands between teams in a swap.
That was yesterday. Today, the Blazers want to cut payroll, and they want their players to behave. After Wells publicly disrespected his coach, the last straw in a long line of transgressions, Blazer management wanted him gone Ñ at almost any cost.
Person can shoot, but he is 32, well past his prime as a player. Wells, 27, is approaching his physical prime. Management talked about his slashing game and how he isn't a good fit with the interior presence of Zach Randolph and Rasheed Wallace on this Blazer team, but that's mostly poppycock. Portland seriously downgraded its talent with this deal.
'Bonzi brought a lot of scoring and defense and savvy to this team,' center Dale Davis said. 'Wesley is a good player, but a totally different type of player. With all due respect, we are going to lose a lot.'
Person is in the final year of a contract that pays him $7.7 million this season, so Portland can let him go into free agency next summer and save money on the deal.
The Blazers also receive a first-round pick that is likely to be a mid-rounder. Management hopes that it can package that with its own pick to move up in next June's draft and get a terrific young player, but that's always a gamble.
Truth is, everyone was fed up with Wells. That includes coach Maurice Cheeks, who didn't push for a trade but wasn't averse to one, either. Had Wells been traded last summer, he could have commanded considerably more in return. His market value plummeted after his recent incidents.
'Although Bonzi is a talented player, sometimes his talent was a little too much for us,' Cheeks said. The addition of Person 'is a better fit for us.'
At the start of the season, Portland was basing its future on Randolph and Wells. Now Wells is gone. Is Wallace next?
'That's a question we ask on almost a daily basis,' General Manager John Nash said. 'It depends on the performance of the player and the team, as well as what the opportunities are.'
All players on the roster are subject to trade, Nash said.
'There are players in the league better than the players on our roster,' he said. 'I have to consider trading everybody. Would we like to upgrade our roster? For sure. Are we going to be able to make a trade that conforms to the parameters we have established? I don't know.'
The Blazers are unlikely to make any other blockbuster trades until summer. Maybe a minor trade or two, but nothing involving Wallace, whom the Blazers will let walk into free agency after the season, paring his $17 million salary from the payroll and saving $34 million in luxury taxes.
All we know for sure is that the Bonzi Wells era in Portland has ended. He might flourish under Hubie Brown in Memphis, but he will have his moments of indiscretion. Wells always does.