When the Sacramento Kings offered Bonzi Wells a five year, $38.5 million dollar contract after the 2005-2006 season, jaws dropped around the league.
When Wells declined the offer, those dropped jaws turned into speechless mouths. Did Bonzi Wells really just turn down nearly $8 million a year?!
Wells, who had somewhat of a career malcontent personality, found new life in Sacramento like so many “problem players” before him. He averaged the third highest point total of his solid career and averaged nearly two more rebounds a game than his previous career high. Wells’ pinnacle though came during the most important time of the season – the playoffs, as he averaged a stunning 23/12 on 60% shooting versus the San Antonio Spurs.
The re-tooling Kings had brought in Shareef Abdur-Rahim to begin the 05-06 season, traded Peja Stojakovic for Ron Artest, drafted Francisco Garcia – and capped it off by moving fan favorite Bobby Jackson for the previously mentioned Wells.
The Kings finished the 05-06 campaign with a 26-14 record after bringing on Artest mid-season and despite the potentially volatile personalities, the talent worked. They gave the reigning World Champion Spurs a battle in the first round and it seemed clear that the Kings now had the talent to compete as a lower half playoff team – certainly not the things dreams were made of, but the light began to shine again on a fading franchise. Unfortunately, that light shinned for only a short while, mostly in part to William Phillps, Bonzi Wells’ then agent.
In an article with The Star Press, a Muncie, Indiana newspaper, Bonzi Wells has finally opened up about the debacle, saying that Phillps was not giving full information to Wells or the rest of his “team”…
When taking into account his millions of dollars worth of assets, Bonzi is living just fine, posh actually. But he missed out on a golden opportunity to be filthy rich. Bonzi says his agent, William Phillips, turned down a five-year, $38.5 million offer from the Kings after the 2005-06 season. The Kings chose to sign John Salmons at a mid-level exception rather than up their offer to Bonzi. Bonzi fired Phillips soon after negotiations with the Kings fell through. “Any decision we make, we make as a team, so we can do what’s best for us,” Bonzi says before explaining his team consisted of his agent, financial adviser, accountant and himself. “My agent was talking (to the Kings) without the team, and he wasn’t bringing back all of the information to the team. When they hit him up with an offer, he denied it without coming back to the team, so by the time he told the team, they had already taken it off the table and offered it to someone else.”
The Star Press piece, for whatever reason, has been removed – but I was fortunate enough to read it late yesterday before it was pulled.
It’s really a sad story, not only for Bonzi, but for the Kings franchise and the fans. In the long run, some might say it’s better the Kings avoided that nasty contract (the contract would have completed at the end of this past season) – but the Kings had something with that core group. How long would it have lasted? How successful would it have been? Nobody knows – but for that half year, it was clear things meshed. A young Kevin Martin, Ron Artest, a healthy Reef, Wells – it worked. It worked well. But as quickly as the puzzle came together, the pieces crumbled thanks to the greed of an incompetent agent.