Raja Bell Agrees to Buyout with Jazz, Flirts with Relevance

Rob MahoneyNBA Lead WriterJuly 9, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 27:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball against Raja Bell #19 of the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on December 27, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Just in case you thought there weren't enough free agents searching for the right deal with the right team, Brian T. Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune reported on Sunday that Raja Bell, one of the finer three-and-D wing players of his era, agreed to terms on a buyout that would release him into the free -gent pool, an overdue move for a team and player that, for whatever reason, so often seemed incompatible. It's for the best that Bell and the Jazz part so that the former could bolt in search of some actual playing time and the latter could cut ties with a veteran who had reportedly become disenchanted with Jazz head coach Ty Corbin's approach:

Bell, 35, averaged 6.4 points and 1.4 rebounds last season while shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 39.1 percent behind the 3-point line in 34 games (33 starts). He only played in one contest after March 15, though, dealing with a left knee injury and publicly clashing with coach Tyrone Corbin.

During an exit interview, Bell said Corbin made things "personal" and the 12-year veteran made it clear he didn't want to play for Utah again. O'Connor said during the season the small-market organization didn't know what a buyout was, inferring that Utah isn't in the business of paying players not to play.

But a two-month cooling-off process has calmed booth sides. Bell said Sunday he holds no ill will toward the Jazz and he greatly respects O'Connor.

That said, it's going to be a bit tough for Bell to score regular playing time with another roster, lest some GM or coach has been actively avoiding the Jazz and Bobcats since 2008. Bell's three-point shooting may be relatively stable, but his defensive skills have diminished rather rapidly, as they are ought to do for 35-year-old wing players. Bell was never a particularly useful offensive player, and with his ability to hang with an opponent's primary wing scorer eroded, along with his lateral movement, he doesn't have much to reasonably offer a competitive team.

The memory of Bell circa 2003-2008 is far superior to the iteration that we've seen more recently, even if some GM will undoubtedly attempt to sell themselves based on Bell's intangibles. Bell is tough, crafty and, in most cases (Utah being the apparent exception), a good guy to have in a locker room. That's all well and good, but those bits of nebulousness don't help to fill out a rotation, nor to provide a team with quality minutes. Throw him a minimum salary and a roster spot if you will, but Bell's on-court precedent doesn't at all suggest that he's worth of actually contributing in a regular role at this point.