Wells spurns big deals to join Rockets; Padgett signs
HOUSTON -- Bonzi Wells could've taken a richer, long-term contract to play in another city.
The free agent chose the Houston Rockets, sacrificing dollars for what he believes is a chance to play on a championship-caliber team.
"You look at their talent level, they should've been better last year," Wells said Monday after passing a physical. "Hopefully, I can be a part of them making that next step -- not only making the playoffs, but making a serious run. They have all the ingredients."
This summer, Wells turned down a five-year, $36 million offer from Sacramento, where he played last season. His contract with Houston will pay him $2.1 million in this season and give him the option to become a free agent after that.
"I could've got a whole lot of money anywhere," Wells said. "I just want to be in a good situation where I can go for a championship."
The 6-foot-5 Wells averaged 13.6 points, 2.8 assists and 7.7 rebounds for the Kings in 2005-06, his eighth NBA season. He averaged 23 points and 12 rebounds in their first-round playoff loss to San Antonio.
Wells figures to help an offense that averaged just over 90 points, second worst in the NBA.
"Bonzi is a proven scorer," said new Rocket Shane Battier, who played with Wells in Memphis. "He's a guy you can throw it to him on the block and he'll create mismatches, foul opportunities and shots. He's a guy the other teams have to prepare for, and you can never have too many of those on your team."
Wells' career has been dotted with suspensions, and he clashed with two of his previous coaches -- Maurice Cheeks in Portland and Mike Fratello in Memphis.
Battier said Wells is a team player and a nice fit for the Rockets.
"We always got along," Battier said. "He's fiery, he's passionate, he's a competitor. He'll be a good addition to this team."
Wells could immediately start in the backcourt with point guard Rafer Alston. He's also content to come off the bench.
Either way, he should draw defenses away from Houston's All-Star duo, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. Both players battled injuries last season as the Rockets missed the playoffs a year after pushing Dallas to seven games in a riveting first-round series.
"I've never played with guys of this magnitude -- a really big big man and a guy on the wing who can really do everything," Wells said. "I just want to go in, do my job well and try to fit in. I understand I'm going to have a lot of nights where it's my night and a lot of nights where it's their night."
The Rockets also signed forward Scott Padgett on Monday, completing their training camp roster. The 6-9 Padgett played for the Rockets between 2003-05 before signing with New Jersey last season. He was waived by the Nets in June.
"It feels like a fresh start, but at the same time, I know the system and I know a lot of the guys," said Padgett, the sixth former Kentucky player acquired by the Rockets in the past year.
Padgett will be one of three former Wildcats at training camp, joining Kelenna Azubuike and Chuck Hayes. Former Kentucky stars Derek Anderson, Gerald Fitch and Keith Bogans played for the Rockets at some point last season.
"A lot of the guys from Kentucky over the years are guys who work hard and play well in systems," Padgett said. "That's something that maybe you look at as a coach and you say, 'This guy's played in a system before, let's see if he can flourish in this one."'
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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