Bonzi Wells will be 35 years old whenever the next NBA season begins and that in itself might be his most favorable attribute at this point of his career. There was never a question about his talent, but like many of those young, cocky players who came up through the Jail Blazers era in Portland, Wells was the type to always rebel against authority, and seemed too wild to tame. He eventually wore out his welcome there and in Memphis and Houston, as well.
Three years ago, he was out of the league and it was all his fault.
"There's no reason to sugarcoat stuff," he said in a story with his hometown paper, the Muncie Star Press. "It was a very humbling experience for me."
Wells, who spent some time in China before last playing professionally in Puerto Rico, was one of a few reclamation projects the Knicks had at the MSG Training Center late last week for a free agent minicamp to get a look at some possible training camp invitees. With little to no money to spend this offseason (depending on the system in the next collective bargaining agreement), the Knicks have to be creative in finding talent to upgrade the roster.
This camp included a few other recognizable names along with Wells who are trying to get back into the NBA: Javaris Crittenton, Ira Newbill and Joe Alexander.
Wells, who might finally have his head right in time to salvage one or two more seasons in his career, definitely caught the Knicks' interest, according to multiple sources. Crittenton also did well. Alexander, a former lottery pick by the Milwaukee Bucks whom the Knicks liked going into the 2008 draft, apparently bulked up some and looked good, according to one observer.
No one is expecting a starting-quality player to emerge from a minicamp like this, but instead what you're hoping to find is someone like Wells -- a player who lost his way and is searching for an opportunity to reprove himself at the NBA level. If just one player like this emerges and earns a roster spot, the effort was a success.
This has Donnie Walsh's fingerprints all over it. Two years ago he brought in Jonathan Bender on a comeback mission, but Bender and his troubled knees just couldn't keep up the NBA pace. But the plan worked out well last year when Walsh invited Shawne Williams to camp and he went from long-shot to roster spot and by the end of the season, was an important part of Mike D'Antoni's rotation.
If the next CBA is as restrictive as the NBA hopes it will be -- and that likely means the end of the mid-level exception as we know it -- there will be little opportunity for the Knicks to add a significant player via free agency this summer, aside from veteran's minimum contracts. There might be someone who shakes free if the league provides an amnesty clause as it did in 2005.
There will be a few trade possibilities to explore, though with limited assets -- and you don't want to give up anything you may need in a potential trade for Chris Paul, if that option is still out there. One team the Knicks are most likely to talk with either on draft night or afterward is the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are certain to select Kyrie Irving with the No. 1 pick. Jim "Chubby" Wells, the agent for Ramon Sessions, whom D'Antoni has coveted since he was a restricted free agent in 2009, told the Akron Beacon Journal that he can't see the Cavs keeping Sessions and veteran Baron Davis along with Irving. "Obviously," Wells said, "something has to give."