Free-agent profile: Raja Bell
This is the sixth in a series of profiles focusing on this year’s free-agent class.
Player: Raja Bell
Former Team: Utah Jazz
Type of free agent: Unrestricted
Positives: One way to measure whether a player is a good fit for the Lakers involves his animosity level toward Kobe Bryant as an opponent.
Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) often jawed with Bryant on the court, exchanging elbows, and even earned an ejection in the 2009 NBA playoffs. As an Orlando Magic forward in the 2009-10 season, Matt Barnes played so physical against Bryant that Barnes pretended to throw an inbounds pass at Bryant’s face. Steve Nash earned Bryant’s scorn by helping the Suns beat the Lakers in the first round of the 2006 and 2007 playoffs -- and Nash winning the 2005-06 regular-season MVP trophy over Bryant didn’t improve that situation. Bryant also disliked the Suns because Bell clotheslined him in Game 5 of the 2006 NBA playoffs.
Why are these examples good things? They prove to Bryant that if these players won’t back down against him, they won’t back down against anybody else.
Such players can be expected to improve the Lakers’ aggressiveness and provide a strong work ethic. And they’ll likely show respect toward Bryant because they share his intensity.
Bryant seemed impressed enough with Bell to talk with him in 2010 about joining the Lakers, and there’s no reason to think that enthusiasm has dimmed.
Bell would give the Lakers a definitive backup shooting guard behind Bryant. He’d bolster the team’s defensive identity, a staple under Coach Mike Brown. And with the Lakers signing Nash, it’s more likely the Lakers could convince Bell to join too.
Negatives: Bell and the Jazz mutually agreed to a buyout, ending a two-year stint that hardly ended well. The strong three-point shooting he posted for most of his career dipped in the 2010-11 (35.2%) and 2011-12 seasons (39.1%).
Bell publicly accused Utah Coach Tyone Corbin of being “unprofessional” by holding a grudge and not using him in the playoffs. Bell told the Salt Lake Tribune that he feels 100% healthy, but he’s been plagued with various injuries in recent seasons.
If Bell came to Los Angeles, it’s possible those problems would carry over to the Lakers, considering that he is is 36 and entering his 13th NBA season. If his three-point shooting would stay streaky, it would exacerbate one of the Lakers’ biggest weaknesses. Bell could soon tire of Brown’s fluctuating lineups, a hallmark of the coach’s first season. And it’s possible more injuries could pop up. Simply put, the Lakers need to add younger pieces. Signing Bell doesn’t fit that need whatsoever.
Verdict: Yahoo! Sports reported that Bell may go to Miami because it’s his hometown and he’d have a chance to help the Heat defend their NBA title. The Lakers remain another possibility because of Bell’s strong relationship with Nash.
The Lakers should have mutual interest. Yes, Bell wouldn’t help their long-term prospects, but they have a strong chance to win an NBA title next season. They can worry about the long-term rebuilding later and should acquire as much as they can to help secure that 17th championship next season.
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