Traded By the Trail Blazers to the Grizzlies, guard Bonzi Wells,
who in the first month of the season was fined for making an
obscene gesture at a fan and stripped of his captaincy for
cursing at coach Maurice Cheeks during a game. By unloading the
27-year-old Wells for less than equal value (journeyman guard
Wesley Person, a conditional first-round pick and $1 million),
Portland's new management showed it is serious about its
preseason pledge to change the team's noxious culture.
"It is key for fans to understand we are following through," said
president Steve Patterson, who was brought in before this season
along with general manager John Nash. Their charge is to revive a
franchise that is losing its fan base--attendance is down 17%
despite Portland's 10-2 home record--after four drug-related
arrests in 13 months and countless acts of insubordination that
have made the once proud Trail Blazers into America's Anti-team.
But how far can the purge go? Portland can't be competitive if it
jettisons its brood of problem children, which includes guard
Damon Stoudamire (snagged with pot last year); forward Rasheed
Wallace (ditto); and go-to guy, forward Zach Randolph, who on
Dec. 2, the day before the Wells trade, was charged with driving
under the influence of "intoxicants," reportedly marijuana.
In one of their final touching moments together as Jail Blazers,
Wallace and Wells were at practice when Wallace suddenly reared
back and chucked a basketball at teammate Ruben Boumtje Boumtje,
who was shooting jump shots with his back to them. According to
The Oregonian the ball struck Boumtje Boumtje so hard he fell to
the floor and lay writhing before eventually walking off. By then
Wallace and Wells had run away, giggling like schoolgirls.
Beavis apparently misses Butt-heads; in Portland's first game
following the trade, Wallace wore an armband bearing Bonzi's
name. It was a singular gesture in Portland, whose citizenry
would've paid for the plane ticket to get the Bonze out of town,
preferably with Wallace sitting next to him.
COLOR PHOTO: JOE MURPHY/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (WELLS) EXES Wells (left) was shipped; the busted Randolph remains aBlazer.
COLOR PHOTO: RICK BOWMER/AP (RANDOLPH) [See caption above]