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By Chris Sheridan
NEW YORK -- Tracy McGrady said Wednesday he feels 100 percent health-wise and is pushing hard to get Bonzi Wells to come to Houston.
Wells' new agent, Merle Scott, said he expected Wells to make a decision by Friday. The Rockets, Nuggets, Heat and Bobcats are the leading interested teams, but the Rockets have an edge because of what they can offer both Wells and his old team, the Sacramento Kings.
While the Heat and Nuggets are right up against the luxury tax and thus would only acquire Wells through a sign-and-trade for another player, Houston could offer a sign-and-trade for a second-round pick and a trade exception worth $4.2 million left over from the deal that sent Moochie Norris to the Hornets last season. The Kings have said they do not want to take back additional salary that would put them above the luxury-tax threshold, and getting even a little something for Wells would be better than getting nothing.
McGrady hinted that he had pressed his pitch to Wells as recently as Wednesday morning, and said a decision from the nine-year veteran seemed imminent.
If the Rockets couldn't find a way to do a sign-and-trade with the Kings under which they'd give Wells a $4.1 million starting salary, Houston could still offer Wells the remaining $2.1 million of its mid-level exception. Either way, the Rockets would stay below the tax threshold. Wells will have to swallow hard in signing whatever deal he takes after turning down a five-year, $36 million offer earlier this summer to remain with Sacramento after averaging 23.2 points for the Kings in the playoffs.
The Bobcats could offer Wells the most money as they're nearly $14 million under the cap and still must spend more than $1.1 million to reach the league-mandated minimum payroll, but it's unclear how genuine their interest is in Wells. It was not a promising sign last week when Wells traveled to Charlotte to meet with Bobcats team officials but Michael Jordan did not attend, preferring to stay in Ireland where he attended the Ryder Cup.
And if it came down to Wells having to choose between a $4.1 million offer (forthcoming) from Houston and a slightly higher offer from Charlotte (if one is even forth), McGrady's jawing in Wells' ear could tip the scales.
"We're really good friends. I was with Bonzi this offseason, was talking to him, and Houston's a place he's real interested in. He's a grown man, he's been in this league for a long time, and the decision will really come down to him," McGrady said.
"I'm sure [the Rockets] want him. What he did in the postseason this year, it was eye-catching. I've been trying to make that work because I think Bonzi would be a great addition to our team to add more depth as far as matching up against teams like Phoenix, Dallas and San Antonio."
Regarding his health, McGrady said his back is feeling fine following an offseason that included his marriage to longtime girlfriend and mother of his two children, Clerenda, and included a tour of Hong Kong, the Philippines, Korea and China for Reebok. He said he was eager to seek redemption after injuries and personal problems forced him to miss 35 games, including Houston's final 20.
"I'm healthy, I feel good. Everything is really going the way I expected it to go this offseason, especially coming off that frustrating season," McGrady told Insider. "I've been dealing with it [chronic back pain] for six years now, and it's really not a major problem. Last year it was a major problem because I was dealing with so much with the team, the death of my wife's mom, my issues. I had worked so hard in the offseason, I had a great preseason, probably the best preseason I ever had, and for my back to go out like that right after the first [regular season] game, I was stressed. And I think stress goes to the weakest part of your body, and my back at the time was the weakest part of my body. It hindered me throughout the whole season, and I could never get healthy.
"But I'm stress free, I'm feeling good, I worked extremely hard, got on a strict diet and I've never felt better," McGrady said. "Without a doubt, I'm 100 percent. Without a doubt."