Now humble, Bonzi Wells wants a final shot

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 12, 2011 - 6:35 AM

The veteran guard would like to exit the NBA on his own terms after three seasons away.


New Orleans Hornets guards Bonzi Wells, left, and Morris Peterson, right rear, congratulate teammate Chris Paul, front right, as he leaves the game during the final minutes of a basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in New Orleans, Sunday, April 6, 2008. Paul had 16 points and a triple-double as the Hornets won 108-96.

Photo: Ann Heisenfelt, Associated Press

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The Timberwolves' search for some stability and leadership has brought to training camp Bonzi Wells, who not that many years ago might have been one of the last guys ever considered to fulfill such needs.

Gifted but stubborn and immature once upon a time, he now, at age 35, is looking both for a job after three years out of the league and for a chance, perhaps, to tell young guys who think they know all a morsel or two about the way things really are.

He once was one of those guys.

Now, after playing in China in 2008-09, Puerto Rico in 2009-10 and not at all last season, he is seeking one last chance, mostly so he can leave professional basketball on his own terms.

"I really didn't like the way I left the game," Wells said. "You want to go out and say you're retired. You don't want to go out because someone tells you they don't want you anymore."

In 2008, Wells couldn't find a job after his contract with New Orleans -- his fifth team in a 10-year NBA career -- expired, so he played in obscurity overseas.

The Wolves have summoned Wells to camp because he already has played twice for coach Rick Adelman and because he just might satisfy the team's needs for a 6-5 shooting guard who can defend and play with some muscle.

That is, if he's in shape, a question mark that followed him through a career in which he also fought with coaches, spit on an opponent, made an obscene gesture at a fan and contributed to Portland's infamous "Jail Blazers" culture when he started his career there.

"I mean, everybody makes mistakes when you're young," said Wells, who set a Trail Blazers playoff record by scoring 45 points in a game in 2003. "People who really knew my story knew I've never really been in trouble off the court. On the court, I just played hard and sometimes I played with too much fire. A lot of people thought since I played like that, maybe that's how I am in real life. That was never the case."

He came to a mutual understanding with Adelman in both Sacramento and Houston, mostly, he said, because he considers Adelman a "straight shooter" who forms his own opinion on players and demands they behave like a professional and deliver on the court.

"I've had him twice, I know what he can do," Adelman said. "He's been through it all. If he's in shape, he can be a factor because he's a very physical player and he's played with our stuff before. He played very good for me. ... Different guys mature in different times and at different ages. Hopefully, with the things he has experienced, he is going to have maybe one last shot to play in the league."

Wells arrived from his home in Indianapolis on Saturday, but he won't be cleared by FIBA to practice until Monday at the earliest because he last played internationally.

He has spent most of these past three years at home in Indiana, watching his children grow, coaching an AAU team, playing pickup games at the Y and developing somewhat of an obsession with the game of golf, a pastime he says has transformed him because it's impossible to master.

"It has taught me patience, how to slow down and really relax," said Wells, who first played golf seven years ago and started taking lessons three years ago. "That's what I really needed in my life, a sense of calm. It's a very humbling game. In basketball, when you're on top so long and you're getting paid the money and you're on TV every day, you kind of think you're above things in life sometimes.

"When you get humbled the way I was humbled the last few years, it really puts your life in perspective. What I've gone through, that's not the way I want to go out. So I've humbled myself.

"That's the word -- humble -- and that's one of the things I love about golf."

He shares that same love for golf with Wolves forward Michael Beasley, who says he tries to play nine holes every day when he can.

Both love golf.

Both have made youthful mistakes in their careers.

Wells said he feels like he has important things to tell such a young Wolves team about pro basketball.

"These guys have a lot of talent, but understanding the NBA game is a whole other beast," he said. "Scottie Pippen, Steve Smith, Detlef Schrempf used to tell me all the time, 'You can play, but you don't understand the game.' And I'm thinking, 'I understand the game. I'm in the NBA. I know what I'm doing. I'm here.'

"But they were right. I didn't understand the game. I didn't have a feel for the game until I got older. These guys are going through a similar thing."

Wells also said he has important things to tell them about life.

"I felt like I learned from all the stuff I did as a young boy," he said. "Now I can tell these guys who I see going down that road that this is not the road you want to go down. No matter how much talent you have, they can take this game away from you. If I can reach just one of them, I feel like I'd done my job."


    Preseason opener: 7 p.m. Saturday vs. Milwaukee at Target Center • FSN alternate (830-AM)

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