A little more than two weeks ago, Jazz guard Raja Bell was in a tough position.
He wanted to contribute to a struggling Utah team and felt he could add more than he was being allowed to provide.
Bell spoke out Jan. 4, voicing frustration that had been building for nearly a year.
Since Jan. 7, the 35-year-old shooter has allowed his play on the court to speak for itself.
Bell broke out that night during a victory at Golden State, scoring nine points and preventing Warriors guard Monta Ellis from hitting a game-winning shot. Since then, the 12-year veteran has averaged 8.1 points and 2.1 assists and has shot 55.5 percent from the field during a six-game stretch.
What changed for the proud, highly competitive Bell?
“I just think I found a rhythm. I found a way to help our team,” Bell said prior to the Jazz’s game Thursday against Dallas. “That was something I was searching for and I didn’t find earlier. It was proving to be hard to make an impact on games on either end of the court.”
As Utah’s offense has opened up, Bell has become more involved. Limited to four shot attempts or fewer during six of the Jazz’s first seven games, Bell has taken at least five shots in five of six contests.
Firing away was never his main concern, though. He just wanted Utah to play better all-around basketball and be a part of what was happening on the court.
“It’s not even about shooting the ball for rhythm … it’s just about being involved in what’s going on,” Bell said.
Prior to Thursday, a surging Utah team had gone 5-1 during a stretch that had seen Bell happier and more active on the hardwood than he’d been in nearly a year.
“Feeling like you’re in the mix for what’s going on, for me, it makes a big difference when it comes time to shoot the ball,” Bell said.
He added: “We’re all growing, and [coach Tyrone Corbin] included. We’re a young team from a lot of different perspectives, and I think he’s done a good job.”
Despite having four candidates for the 2012 NBA All-Star game, the Jazz don’t have a top vote-getter after two weeks of fan balloting.
Asked about Utah’s lack of a superstar player, forward Paul Millsap didn’t blink. He’s not concerned about individual awards, he doesn’t pay attention to media hype or criticism, and he said the Jazz are doing just fine on their own.
“We’re a team,” Millsap said.
It was exactly what Corbin wanted to hear.
“We’ve got a group of guys that are certainly capable of being on the All-Star team or All-Star consideration,” Corbin said. “But they’re not worrying about that as far as I’m concerned. … They understand that if they do and play as they are capable of playing, and they continue to win, then those awards will come to them.”