Lakers Rumors: LA Must Sign Raja Bell at All Costs If Veteran Guard Is Released

Ethan Grant@DowntownEGAnalyst IFebruary 22, 2013

Dec. 27, 2011; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Utah Jazz shooting guard Raja Bell (19) defends Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) as he looks for a shot during the first half of the game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers stayed true to their word and avoided making any moves at the NBA trade deadline on Thursday, but that doesn't mean they are done adding pieces to the roster just yet.

One of those pieces—exiled Utah Jazz guard Raja Ball—is a must-add if released by his current team anytime in the next week or so.

According to Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld, the Lakers are keeping a close eye on Bell's situation as the Jazz make a decision about keeping him on the roster for the remainder of the 2012-13 season.

Alex Kennedy @AlexKennedyNBA

If Jazz decide to buyout Raja Bell, the Lakers will try to sign the veteran guard. Bell is working out in Fort Lauderdale and wants to play.

While the Lakers remain hopeful that Bell will hit the free-agent pool soon, Jody Genessy reports that Bell's agent doesn't exactly sound emphatic that something will get done:

Jody Genessy @DJJazzyJody

Raja Bell's agent said he has "no idea" if the Jazz guard will remain on the roster or be released if the 36-year-old isn't traded.

Kennedy had a full report on Bell's availability on Wednesday, noting his offseason criticism of head coach Tyrone Corbin and inability to come to terms on a buyout:

Over the offseason, Bell was highly critical of Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin, which upset many people within the organization. Prior to training camp, Bell was told to stay away from the team. The two sides tried to negotiate a buyout earlier in the season, but could not reach an agreement.

Not only does Bell have a prior relationship with new Lakers starting point guard Steve Nash, he's also a former proponent of Mike D'Antoni's offense in Phoenix. Although he and Kobe Bryant have a past history that isn't fully cordial (see 2006 playoffs), that won't be a reason for Bell not to come to town.

Bryant and Bell reportedly met in July 2010 (via ESPN) when Bell was last a free agent. Bryant knew that Bell would be a valuable asset to the team, bringing both defense and another veteran presence who can weather the storms of a playoff run.

The same rings true today.

The only issues that surround Bell joining the team now appear to be a buyout and the Lakers' cap space.

It's unclear what kind of settlement Bell would need from the Jazz to leave town. It is clear that LA would have to get rid of one of its current 15 players on the roster and offer Bell the bare minimum of a one-year contract.

The question remains, though: Would Bell event want to sign with LA?

He chose Utah over the Lakers in 2010, and the past feud with Bryant might still be a lingering factor in any decision. Additionally, there's a slew of teams (Indiana and San Antonio among a few choice contenders) that might want to make a play for his services, and the Lakers don't have full leverage of "contender" status just yet.

Either way, general manager Mitch Kupchak needs to keep a close eye on this situation. Jodie Meeks and Devin Ebanks are his only true backups on the wing, and Bryant and Metta World Peace aren't exactly the youngest players in the league.

LA would benefit from more depth and defense on the wing, especially in situations where Bell would be on the court in place of World Peace—the team's best one-on-one defender by a long shot.

The Lakers showed trust in Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and the rest of the roster by not making a trade at the deadline. That won't take them off of the list of teams that need to add one more player, and Bell is exactly the kind of piece that could help the Lakers both make the playoffs and have a better shot at escaping the first round.


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