Less than two years ago, Raja Bell was the Jazz’s main free-agent signing.
Tuesday, Bell torched an already-frayed rope that had been loosely tying him to Utah for months.
Calling Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin unprofessional and saying his career with the Jazz is over, Bell opened up firing Tuesday during a season-ending media interview and never ran out of bullets.
The 35-year-old guard said Corbin made things personal by not allowing him to take the court during Utah’s first-round playoff defeat to San Antonio. Every active Jazz player except Bell recorded minutes. And after working back from knee and groin injuries this season only to watch his teammates be swept by the Spurs without him, Bell left no room for reconciliation. He’s done with the Jazz, and has no intention of playing another game in a Utah uniform.
“Ideally for me, I don’t want [this] to be the end of my career,” said Bell, who’s under contract through 2012-13 and set to make $3.4 million next season. “I’ve had a good one. More than I could ever ask out of this league, and I don’t want it to be diminished or leave a sour taste in my mouth for having to deal with a situation like this.”
Corbin again refused to go into detail about the duo’s fractured relationship, which bottomed out after a heated confrontation in March that saw Bell sent home early from a road trip. Corbin acknowledged, though, the decision not to play the veteran guard was his call.
Informed of Bell’s comments, Jazz General Manager Kevin O’Connor sarcastically fired back.
“Gee, that’s unexpected,” O’Connor said. “I would’ve never thought that would’ve happened. … We’ll deal with all that stuff behind closed doors.”
Bell didn’t stand alone Tuesday.
Longtime Utah small forward C.J. Miles said he was proud of what his team accomplished and is open to returning next season. But the seven-year veteran joined Bell in questioning Corbin’s communication skills, pointing toward deep-rooted issues that sometimes undercut the team’s improved chemistry this year.
Much of Bell’s frustration the last two seasons stemmed from a lack of dialogue and understanding. Miles often felt the same, and he could no longer hold his tongue after quietly sitting back and doing everything the Jazz asked of him the past few years. Morevoer, Miles said, communication between Utah and its players was much better when Jerry Sloan coached the team.
Corbin replaced Sloan in February 2011.
“Being able to know what’s going on makes everything a lot easier,” said Miles, who was drafted by Utah in 2005 out of high school and has spent his entire career in Salt Lake City. “You don’t want to have to come in guessing. … I don’t even remember us naming a captain. But they wanted leadership?”
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