A few weeks ago when Bonzi Wells thought he was a few days from taking his place in the Rockets' rotation, he said it would take time to be his best.
"I'm not going to come in and change the world," Wells said when asked about the excitement that came with his addition to the roster. "It's going to take me some time to get a good feel for playing with my teammates, get in the game atmosphere, get my legs up under me. I'm going to be a work in progress. I plan on struggling a bit at first. Hopefully, I'll smooth it out as time goes on."
Since then, it has seemed to go on and on and on.
But while Wells' situation has caused a great deal of confusion and even more consternation, it is not complicated.
Look at it this way: By not playing, Wells doesn't have to save his legs for that night's jump shots. He can (theoretically) go all out in workouts, really push it and be in good shape after two or three weeks of intense (again, we assume) training.
The Rockets played him in the second and third games of the season and saw a fraction of the usual Bonzi Wells, especially in his second game when the mind was willing but the body was not.
With that, coach Jeff Van Gundy changed his mind and decided to make Wells inactive and have him concentrate on conditioning, likely with goals to meet — body fat, weight and/or performance — before he returns to the court.
On game days, Wells works with strength coaches, no longer preparing with the team, as has been the common practice under Van Gundy. He and other rehabilitating players rarely travel, so Wells has been nowhere to be found by television cameras during games, inspiring more conjecture.
Wells cannot be loving it, as his conversation might have indicated. When asked on his first night back on the inactive list what he needed to do to regain his usual form, Wells said, "Play."
To a degree, NBA players generally get and stay in shape playing basketball. And eventually, Wells will need to play his way into basketball shape. But first, the Rockets chose to give up a few weeks to get him close.
The Rockets were aware Wells was out of shape when they signed him, knowing his groin injury and free-agency limbo kept him off the court through the summer. For $2.1 million for this season, the Rockets were happy to sign Wells.
The Rockets were not about to argue when the town got a little nutty over their good fortune, but they knew his impact would not be immediate.
So they wait. Wells does his Lance Armstrong bit on the bicycles. And with every loss, and even the close wins, the screams for his arrival grow.