Raja Bell is going to the…… Utah Jazz?
After heavy recruiting by both the Miami Heat and the Los Angles Lakers, Bell will be taking his talents to Utah in a deal reported to be worth three years and ten million dollars.
On Wednesday Bell, who considered Miami one of his top destinations this summer, also canceled a meeting with Kobe Bryant which was aimed at luring the 34 year old over to the Lakers for something around the vets minimum (same as Miami). And now it seems that once again Mr. Bell has gotten the upper forearm on Bryant, ejecting himself out of conversations in both Miami and Los Angels and slipping into a Utah Jazz uniform.
So why is it that Kobe is still smiling you ask?
Because, he is not going to be joining the Three Kings down in Miami!
In a somewhat significant turn of events, Raja decided not to sign with either of the top two team that had been recruiting him in the past weeks. Instead, he opted for a longer, larger, contract to play for the Utah Jazz. In doing so, the Heat lost the opportunity to add a dynamic defender who is well versed in the art of the Kobe clothes-lines and would have proven integral to the Heat's success on many occasions.
Not worthy of a collective sigh of relief by Lakers Nation, but more of a slight exhale; nothing to panic about just yet.
The Heat have been making serious moves since “The Decision” aired last Thursday, which brought free agent LeBron James to Miami‘s shores. The resigning of PF Udonis Haslem, and the addition of 3-point specialist Mike Miller has given Miami two more weapons in its ever expanding arsenal. In addition, the acquisitions of Big Z and Juwan Howard, who where previously said to be unattainable to Miami given their available cap space (or lack thereof), have been announced.
But nevertheless, the loss of Raja Bell stings just a little. He would have made an excellent off-the-bench option against Kobe in the event those two teams were to meet up in the finals this year. AND KOBE KNEW IT! Kobe’s attempt to bring in Bell to the Lakers was less of a roster upgrade move than it was strategic chess positioning against the Heat.
Lets face it, when you have a defensive juggernaut like Ron Artest, who can also create his own shots, why would you need a Raja Bell? You wouldn’t. It is that simple.
Bell has always matched up well defensively against Kobe and his physicality has, on occasion, stifled him (Clothesline excluded). Kobe’s main focus was not to bring Raja in, but to keep Raja out, of Miami that is. He knew that by Bell-blocking Miami he would be able to avoid yet another obstacle on the already STACKED Heat roster that he would have to contend with on his way to his sixth NBA Championship. The Heat knew this as well, and were trying to capitalize on the opportunity to add Bell's defensive abilities in situations were Wade would be resting.
With all the pushing and pulling for position from both teams the Heat’s resulting loss of Raja Bell was not at the hands of Kobe and the Lakers, nor as a result of a mismanaging of the situation by the Miami Heat and it’s Big three. It was, in fact, Raja’s “decision” that put an end to all the back and forth.
It was his decision not to allow himself to become a Lakers' pawn that would eventually be sacrificed for the greater good of the team; or a Heat bench-surfer garnishing a minimal amount of playing time. It was his decision to take twice the amount of money and be twice as valuable for three times as long on a playoff caliber team.
It was a business decision. It was a career decision. It was a respectable decision. One that sets back Miami in it’s quest to top the Lakers, if only slightly and for the moment. And Kobe knows that too.
That’s why he is still smiling and Miami is still looking…….