Bonzi Wellsclaims he came to Houston with one goal in mind. "I want to win achampionship," the 30-year-old swingman said at his introductory pressconference earlier this month. "And I have a chance to win a championshiphere."
Though Wells'simpressive run with the Kings (he averaged 23.2 points and 12.0 rebounds in theplayoffs, with five double doubles in six games against the Spurs) made him acoveted free agent this summer, he balked at re-signing with Sacramento foralmost $40 million over five years. Instead he agreed to join the Rockets at adeep discount: a one-year, $2.1 million deal that includes a player option for2007--08.
The 6'5"Wells insists that he prefers being in "a good situation" to gettingmore cash. Playing a high-profile role on a contending team, however, wouldonly enhance his value in next year's free-agent market. "We like theflexibility Bonzi gives us," said Houston G.M. Carroll Dawson. Wells canfill in at shooting guard, small forward or power forward and could wind up asthe team's third scoring option, after Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. ("I'venever played with two All-Stars before," Wells gushed.) And if necessitydemands that Wells come off the bench, that's fine with him too.
"It's nothingnew for me to play a role," he says. "I understand I'm going to havenights where it's going to be my night and a lot of nights where it's going tobe mostly [McGrady's and Yao's] nights. I just want to fit in, and hopefullythat will translate into wins." This season, few players will be paying abigger price for victories.
ProjectedStarting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
Record: 34--48(T12 in West)
Points scored:90.1 (29th in NBA)
Points allowed:91.7 (4th)
Coach: Jeff VanGundy
(fourth seasonwith the Rockets)
VASSILIS SPANOULIS (R)*
*NEW ACQUISITION(R) ROOKIE (EUROLEAGUE STATISTICS)
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Rockets
I love TracyMcGrady's athleticism, and when he brings the ball down, I can see the fear inthe defender's eye. But he has to have the ball in his hands so much that itclouds the way the team plays. It's Yao Ming's turn, then it's McGrady's turn,and back and forth. They don't get in a flow in which both of them are gettingtheir shots naturally. It should come more easily considering how hard both areto defend.... Yao has learned the American way of getting the ball in the paintand aggressively going to the hole. The NBA game is no longer foreign tohim.... Shane Battier is a defensive stopper who can play multiple roles atboth ends of the floor and is one of the best glue guys in the NBA. He does thethings that a coach appreciates, like covering up for another guy's defensivemistakes when it's not his responsibility.... The Rockets have so many goodcitizens that Bonzi Wells will be O.K. It reminds me of the old quote from AlMcGuire: You can afford to have one donkey, but you can't have two because thenthey'll breed.
Oft-injured TracyMcGrady and Yao Ming played together just 31 times last season; the Rocketswere 21--10 (.677 winning percentage) in those games and 13--38 (.255) in therest.
In 15 games late last season when his costar McGrady was out, Yao averaged 25.9points and 11.1 rebounds.