Blazers get Person in return for Wells

Updated: December 5, 2003, 8:57 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Volatile forward Bonzi Wells was traded by the Portland Trail Blazers to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday for guard Wesley Person and a conditional 2004 first-round draft pick.

Dr. Jack's take
Dr. Jack
Personnel-wise, this trade is a win for the Grizzlies because Bonzi Wells has a better all-around game than Wesley Person. Wells, 27, is also younger than Person, 32.

But morale-wise, this is something the Trail Blazers had to do. This deal should benefit the Blazers as they try to bring equilibrium to their team chemistry. Portland had to make a move because of the conflict between Wells and coach Maurice Cheeks.

Two weeks ago, Wells was stripped of his team captaincy and suspended two games for cursing at Cheeks after being removed from a game. Given this situation, I'm not at all surprised by this trade. Clearly, Portland had to move Wells.

The Blazers miss Scottie Pippen's influence. There seems to be even more unrest on the team this season. Last season, Pippen (now with the Bulls) helped to keep the locker room in order and also was a leader on the court.

I expect Wells to start for Memphis along with Jason Williams and Mike Miller on the perimeter. The wild card for Portland is the first-round draft choice, which probably will be a middle-of-the-pack pick (the Grizzlies are currently 8-8).
-- Dr. Jack

Wells was averaging 12.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists this season, his sixth in Portland. But more than the numbers, Wells had become part of the team's troubled image. He was stripped of his co-captaincy and suspended two games earlier this season for cursing at coach Maurice Cheeks.

During a game in November against Dallas, Cheeks yanked Wells for taking an ill-advised jumpshot. Wells swore at Cheeks on his way back to the bench and stood on the sideline and continued a profanity-laced tirade. Wells sat out the final 16:17 of the game, and the Blazers quickly lost the lead, with the Mavericks eventually winning 105-98.

"It just gets old. I'm sick of it," Cheeks said at the time. "I'm sick of always saying he didn't mean it and all that. Players have to be accountable for what they do and what they say."

Wells also was fined last month for making an obscene gesture at a fan after a loss to Philadelphia. Last March, Wells was suspended one game for conduct considered detrimental to the team.

"We are very hopeful that this opportunity provides a fresh start for Bonzi in Memphis, and that he enjoys joining a rising young team in the Grizzlies," Memphis president Jerry West said. "We're very optimistic Bonzi will provide a significant presence in our lineup."

Portland gets Person, who has averaged 11.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists in his 10-year career. With his role limited this season, Wells was averaging only 5.2 points.

"Of course, we lost a veteran player in Wesley who is a true professional and has done a wonderful job for us over the last two seasons," West said. "We certainly wish the best for Wesley as he continues his successful career in the NBA."

Trail Blazers general manager John Nash said Wells did not demand a trade, but the latest suspension had clearly clouded his future in Portland.

"He just indicated that if something could be worked out that was to our benefit that it might be the best thing for all parties," Nash said. "Obviously, Bonzi was struggling as a player, and the reaction of the fans to him was certainly, I'm sure, unsettling for him. And it was a distraction for us.''

If the Grizzlies' first-round pick next June is among the top three selections, they will keep it and give the Trail Blazers their top pick in 2005 -- provided it is not the overall No. 1 pick. If the selection rolls over to 2006, Portland will get it unconditionally.

The Blazers also receive cash from the Grizzlies.

"Some of you may say, 'Well, Wes Person is a bench player whereas Bonzi was a starter for us most of the time,' and that's true," Nash said. "Which is why we regard the draft pick as a valuable asset in this trade."

Portland entered Wednesday night's home game against the Indiana Pacers with an 8-7 record, tied for fourth place in the Pacific Division.

Memphis, 8-8 going into its game against the New Jersey Nets, is last in the Midwest Division.

"Now it comes down to chemistry and will the individual coming to your team come, be on time, play hard and know his job and fit it," Grizzlies coach Hubie Brown said. "[But] I can't worry about that because I'm more concerned about beating the Nets tonight."

The trade comes as the Blazers try to repair an image tarnished by several player arrests and team infighting. Just this Tuesday, forward Zach Randolph was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of marijuana.

It is hoped Person will provide some of the veteran leadership the team lost when Scottie Pippen left for the Chicago Bulls as a free agent in the offseason.

Person also helps make up for the absence of guard Derek Anderson, who is on the disabled list with a herniated disk. Anderson is not expected to be back until the end of this month at the earliest.

"And let's not forget Wesley Person is going to give us something that we need. He's an outside shooter, and when you have people like Zach Randolph and Rasheed Wallace down low, it's going to make a lot of open shots for him," Cheeks said.

Person is expected to join the Blazers on Thursday.

Wells has a year left on his contract with the Blazers, plus a team option for another year. Person is in the final season of his contract.

Wells has at times showed flashes of brilliance, including a 45-point performance in Game 2 of the team's first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks last season. But he also developed a troubled reputation.

Wells was suspended early last season by the league for spitting on San Antonio forward Danny Ferry, then was suspended for two games for his role in a postgame scuffle with the Golden State Warriors.

Grizzlies forward Pau Gasol was taking a wait-and-see approach with his new teammate.

"All Portland players have that reputation right now with what's going on with their team and everything," Gasol said. "Let's see how it works out."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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