Work in Sports
Trail Blazers' Wells breaks through in Game 2
Posted: Thursday May 11, 2000 04:10 PM
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- One of the subtle benefits of Portland's blowout victory against the Utah Jazz in Game 2 was the emergence of Bonzi Wells from his near-invisibility as a Trail Blazers reserve.
Wells had seemed as anonymous as someone in a witness protection program during the playoffs, although his only crimes were bad defense and foul trouble.
Before he scored 17 points in Tuesday night's 103-85 win, Wells had played in just three of Portland's five postseason games. His stat line: 12 minutes, zero points, five fouls and four turnovers.
That all changed in Game 2, and even though he scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, when the outcome was secure, it gave the 23-year-old shooting guard a huge lift in spirits.
"It was good for us to see, too, because we know how it is when you get in a funk, and it's hard do get out of," teammate Brian Grant said at practice Wednesday, before the Blazers were scheduled to fly to Salt Lake City for Thursday night's game.
Wells made seven of his nine shots, many of them layups and quick darts to the basket like the ones he made during his impressive second NBA season.
Jermaine O'Neal, a $5 million backup center who had not played at all in the playoffs, also got off the bench, scoring two points.
"With all our guys, there's going to be an opportunity to come in and help us," Portland coach Mike Dunleavy said. "They've already done it for us by working in practice and pushing our guys and having us ready, but obviously it's much more rewarding for them when they're able to do it in the game."
It has been a tough week for Wells. As he was struggling to regain his confidence, assistant coach Bill Musselman died suddenly Friday morning. Wells was close to Musselman and took his death particularly hard.
Wells hasn't spoken publicly about the coach, and he's found it difficult to talk at all.
"I'm cool with interviews," he said after Game 2, but "I've got to wait a few more days. Got a lot of stuff on my mind."
Wells, a high-scoring star at Ball State, was largely unknown when he was drafted by the Detroit Pistons with the 11th overall pick in 1998, then traded to the Blazers.
He barely got off the bench during his rookie season as the backup to Isaiah Rider. Wells played in just seven games, scoring 31 points. He was left off Portland's playoff roster.
That season, the most interesting thing about Wells was his name -- Gawen Deangelo Wells. He was nicknamed "Bonzi" because his mother liked chocolate bonbons before he was born.
Wells worked hard in the offseason and wowed coaches during NBA summer league games. And when Steve Smith was traded from Atlanta to the Blazers for Rider and Jim Jackson, Wells knew he'd get his chance, because Smith was looking at reduced minutes to save his sore knees.
Wells averaged 7.3 points in the Blazers' first nine games before he sprained his left knee at Charlotte. He missed 14 games, then resumed his role as a valuable backup with deceptively quick moves.
After losing the baby fat that made him look Charles Barkleyesque as a rookie, Wells scored in double figures in 23 of Portland's last 56 games. He went for 29 in front of his hometown Indiana fans during a 127-119 overtime loss to the Pacers.
When Dunleavy narrowed his rotation for the playoffs, however, Wells wasn't part of the plans. He could score, but often missed his assignment in the Blazers' complex defensive schemes. He also pouted in the huddle and didn't appear to take criticism well.
Now that he's back in the fold, the Blazers feel better about their chances.
"We're going to need him throughout the playoffs," Grant said. "We've got to continue to play as hard as we can, man, so guys can get minutes, because we're definitely going to have to start stretching that roster, because foul trouble's going to come up."