Bonzi rejoins Rockets, aims to play in preseason finale
Houston Rockets swingman Bonzi Wells, granted leave from his new team over the weekend for "personal reasons," rejoined the Rockets on Tuesday and, according to his agent, could possibly play in a preseason game this week in spite of his limited practice time.
Bill Duffy, head of BDA Sports Management, the firm that represents Wells, said Tuesday that Wells is likely to make his Rockets debut Thursday night when they complete their preseason schedule in Orlando.
"Bonzi had to handle some personal matters, but he and Jeff [Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy] have spoken and he's back on track," Duffy said.
Wells practiced Tuesday and then traveled with the team to Florida for preseason games this week against the Miami Heat (Wednesday) and the Magic. But the 30-year-old Wells has seen minimal activity this month thanks to persistent groin trouble stemming from the injury that cost him 30 games with the Sacramento Kings last season and, more recently, a series of root-canal procedures. The Rockets and Wells' camp have refused to elaborate on the nature of the personal issues, but with mounting injury frustration as well, Van Gundy allowed Wells to leave the team late last week.
Wells' arrival in Houston, for the bargain price of $2.1 million this season after free-agent negotiations with the Kings spectacularly collapsed in July, is a big reason Houston has been widely picked to finish just below the Western Conference power trio of Dallas, San Antonio and Phoenix.
Rockets star Tracy McGrady and forward Shane Battier, Houston's other main offseason acquisition, both contest the notion that Wells -- after clashing with coaches and a catalyst for turbulence in prior stops at Portland and Memphis -- will have trouble playing for the demanding Van Gundy or accepting a role as the club's No. 3 scoring option behind McGrady and Yao Ming.
"[Rockets management] asked me about him," said Battier, a natural source for a scouting report given Battier and Wells' time together as teammates in Memphis.
"I told them that Bonzi is a fiery guy, and sometimes his cup runneth over as they say, but I think a lot of that has been circumstantial. On this team, I think he can be a really good player. He'll be able to get shots and minutes and the ability to produce, and that'll keep him happy."
McGrady told ESPN.com earlier this month: "[Wells is] surrounded by a great group of guys here. When you're in an environment like this, there's no need to be an outcast. I think he's happy here."
Van Gundy also has downplayed concerns about meshing with Wells and insists that the bigger worry is starting the regular season with Houston's top four players unable to spend much court time together. In addition to Wells' frequent absences, Yao missed a handful of practices and two preseason games with a toe injury.
Van Gundy had hoped to determine by now whether Wells is best utilized off the bench as the primary offensive option for the second unit or as a starting shooting guard, whose size and strength could offset what Battier would give away as an undersized power forward. Wells will instead have to play his way into shape, which is something Houston wanted to avoid after starting slow (6-11 and 3-11) each of the past two seasons.
"I [wouldn't] say it's set us back as much as it's set him back," Van Gundy said recently of Wells' health woes, "because it's a big year for him."
After turning down more than $7 million a season from the Kings and struggling to find a more lucrative offer than his two-year deal with Houston worth $4.5 million, Wells is expected to opt out at season's end to return to the free-agent market.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.