- Ric Bucher, NBA Reporter, ESPN The Magazine Senior Writer
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Wells holds a player option for the second year and fully plans to re-enter the free agent market next summer.
"This isn't about the money, this is about being in the right place," said Wells' agent, Merle Scott of BDA Sports.
After turning down a five-year, $36 million offer from the
Sacramento Kings last month, Wells fired his agent, Bill Phillips, and hired Scott a few weeks ago. Attempts to work a sign-and-trade that might've allowed Wells to match or improve the Kings' offer failed because Sacramento refused to take back any salaries after signing John Salmons with the money refused by Wells.
"We never talked about the Sacramento offer because that was gone and that wasn't going to change," Scott said.
Wells' loss is clearly Houston's gain. Wells left both Portland and Memphis after being portrayed as a malcontent, but his 13.6 points and 7.7 rebounds in 52 games with the Kings last season and a strong first-round playoff performance against San Antonio restored some of his luster. Wells and Ron Artest were a devastating forward combination and Artest personally lobbied for the Kings to re-sign Wells. Sacramento held Wells' Bird rights, meaning they could've paid him whatever they chose but drew the line with their offer slightly better than the mid-level exception.
Wells, a source said, originally wanted Phillips to land him a $50 million deal.
Denver, Boston, Charlotte and Miami also made offers but the Rockets did the best job of convincing Wells he was needed. The recruiting contingent included Yao Ming, GM Carroll Dawson, assistant coach Tom Thibodeau, coach Jeff Van Gundy, personnel director Keith Jones and Tracy McGrady, who called Bonzi directly to make his pitch.
The Rockets go into training camp next week with a potential starting lineup of Rafer Alston, McGrady, Shane Battier (acquired in a draft-night trade for Stromile Swift and No. 8 pick Rudy Gay), Juwan Howard and Yao, with Wells as the sixth man, but if Wells plays as he did against the Spurs he could challenge Battier and Howard for one of the starting forward spots.
"Bonzi doesn't care about starting," Scott said. "He just wants to be some place he can contribute."
Ric Bucher is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
8hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
9hMatt Walks, ESPN.com