Wells likes his chances
Hungry for title, Rockets signee
looking forward to playing with Yao and T-Mac
By TERRANCE HARRIS
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
When surveying the free-agent landscape, Bonzi Wells was lured more by potential championships than money. As a result, the Rockets were able to land one of the most prized players on the market.
It had been reported for days that Wells, a 6-5 swingman and eight-year NBA veteran, had reached an agreement with the Rockets. But the deal was not signed until Monday, when players reported for physicals.
Wells, who opted not to re-sign with the Sacramento Kings this past summer, had been pursued by other teams, including Denver, Charlotte, Boston and Miami. He said he chose the Rockets because of the star power of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming and the chance to make a run in the Western Division.
Wells signed a two-year contract with the Rockets for $5 million — considerably less than the deal on the table with Sacramento in the summer.
Reports have circulated that the Kings offered Wells a five-year deal worth $36 million to $38 million. But when he and his agent rejected it, the Kings went elsewhere, and Wells was unexpectedly left on the free-agent market after many teams had spent available money.
Wells sought to set the record straight Monday.
"It was there," he said about the money. "I just decided to come here. It was all on me.
"I could have got a whole lot of money anywhere. You might have read the wrong stuff, but the money was always out there. I just want to be in a good situation where I can go for a championship. With Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming being as young as they are, I think it's going to be great for the future."
In Wells, the Rockets get an explosive and versatile scorer. His quickness will provide matchup problems for opponents that attempt to defend him with bigger players on the wing or with smaller guards down low.
Wells is coming off an impressive postseason run for the Kings. In six playoff games, he averaged 23.2 points and 12 rebounds. He had double-doubles in five of those games.
In Game 5 of the first-round series loss to San Antonio, Wells had 38 points. In Game 4 (a Kings win), he had 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting and picked up 17 rebounds.
"We like the flexibility Bonzi gives us," said Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson. "Bonzi was one of the top free agents available this offseason, and we think he's going to be a good fit with the roster we have assembled. We will be able to use his unique talents in many ways, because he can play a variety of different positions on the floor."
Ready to find niche
Wells, who averaged 13.6 points and 7.7 rebounds in his season with the Kings, said his role with the Rockets will be to fit in around the stars. His jobs will be to complement them and score when necessary.
"Since I've been in the league, I've always played with great players," said Wells, who for his career has averaged 12.8 points and 4.4 rebounds while shooting 46.4 percent from the field. "During my Portland days, I played with a lot of great players. In Memphis, I had a lot of great guys who could play, and even in Sacramento (I was around great players).
"So it's nothing new for me to come play a role. I just hope I can do it well. I understand I'm going to have a lot of nights where it's going to be my night and a lot of nights where it's going to be (McGrady's and Yao's) nights mostly. I just want to come in and fit in, do my job to the best of my ability, and hopefully it will transfer into wins."
Wells' new teammates are counting on that. The Rockets are coming off a 34-48 campaign in which McGrady and Yao missed considerable time with injuries.
There is hope that the additions of forward Shane Battier (acquired in a trade with Memphis for Stromile Swift and the rights to draftee Rudy Gay) and Wells will add not only depth but scoring.
Howard likes Wells' game
Many of the Rockets said they were excited about what both players will bring off the bench or as starters, and they are especially pumped about the explosiveness Wells offers.
"Bonzi is a veteran player who has not only showed he's a proven scorer, but his toughness out there on the court ... people don't talk about the guy as a fierce competitor, a very good offensive and defensive rebounder," forward Juwan Howard said.
"He adds a strong body in there to post up with a lot of smaller guards. He plays with a workmanlike attitude, and that's great to have someone like that on your team. I know every time we've faced him, he's always been a tough matchup for us."
Wells said he looks to keep up that level of play while also chasing a title in a season that opens Nov. 1 against Utah in Salt Lake City.
"I've been in this league long enough and made enough money, but I haven't won a championship," said Wells, a first-round pick (11th overall) out of Ball State for the Detroit Pistons in 1998. (The pick was traded to Portland.)
"That's my ultimate goal. I want to win a championship, and with Yao and Tracy being as young as they are, and the pieces around (them), I really think we have a chance."