O'Connor says Jazz would have bought out Raja Bell 'right away'
The Jazz are paying Raja Bell $3.5 million to sit this one out. The 36-year-old guard has not been with the team since the end of last season and the message out of the Jazz has been one of complete and utter silence when it comes to their estranged veteran.
However, in an interview with team-owned radio station 1280 The Zone, Jazz Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin O'Connor was surprisingly candid when it came to Bell's situation, saying that the Jazz want to buy out Bell's contract, but not at the price the veteran sought and that keeping Bell from signing with the rival Lakers could be a factor. [Full disclosure: The interview was conducted by Spencer Checketts and Gordon Monson, a Tribune columnist and drive-time host on The Zone.]
After the Jazz did not trade Bell before Thursday's deadline, reports have resurfaced that the Lakers are interested in adding Bell as they make a push for the playoffs. Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy reported last week that Bell told "players and friends around the league" that he expects to join the Lakers.Here's the transcript with O'Connor:
O'Connor: I think it's been from the start. We'll be willing to look at a buyout. We're not just going to let him walk away. We're paying him the money. [Checketts: Right] He's going to get money. He can't get all the money from us and then go make more with the Lakers. Oh, thank you. I'd get fired for that. I'd fire me for that.
Checketts: Is it a situation where you would be motivated to keep him under contract so he doesn't play for the Lakers?
O'Connor: Yeah, if we thought that was the best interest of the team. I'd like not to do that. I don't think you want to be in a situation where you're holding somebody hostage in that respect, but let's go back. Raja said, "Hey, I'll take a buyout." We've said it from the start: All we want is a minimum buyout. We never heard from him. He never said yes to it. We would have done it right away.
The full interview can be heard here.