CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte Bobcats signed power forward/center Melvin Ely to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract Wednesday giving them a veteran presence in the middle.
The move comes one day after they lost free agent center Kwame Brown to the Warriors.
An eight-year NBA veteran, Ely has played in 373 games for the Clippers, Bobcats, Spurs, Hornets and Nuggets. He holds career averages of 5.3 points and 3.3 rebounds, while shooting .460 from the field. Last season, Ely averaged 2.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in 12.2 minutes in 30 games played for the Nuggets.
Ely's contract is contingent upon him making the roster.
However, coach Paul Silas said with Brown headed West and center Gana Diop coming off a torn right Achilles tendon, he expects Ely will have a good chance to see some playing time.
"He gives us another big man that can help us," Silas said. "Right now we're struggling for size and I'm hoping when he comes he can do the job. He's going to have his opportunity."
Ely said he plans to do everything he can to make the roster.
"With Gana coming off the injury and Kwame not coming back, they're kind of short-handed," Ely said. "So when I get on the court I'll be taking charges, rebounding and doing everything I can because the minutes are here for me. I did it last year (in Denver). I had the same talk with my agent — if I did it last year I can do it this year... When teams have spots to fill, it's up to the player."
Ely, 33, joined the Bobcats for practice Wednesday night.
Ely previously played for the Bobcats from 2004-07, joining the team in a trade with the Clippers.
He averaged 7.5 points and 4 rebounds in 160 games played for the Bobcats before being traded to the Spurs in February 2007. Ely had his best statistical season in 2005-06, when he averaged career highs of 9.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 23.6 minutes in 57 games played for the Bobcats.
Ely said he still views Charlotte as home.
"I wish I never had to leave here," Ely said.
Bobcats fans might not recognize Ely when they see him on the court for Saturday's open scrimmage. He's lost 30 pounds — down to 250 — and cut off his braids since leaving the Bobcats four years ago.
"I've learned that coaches want guys to go up and down the court instead of half court and back," Ely said with a laugh.