Once the Jazz decided they would pay Raja Bell millions of dollars for doing nothing this season, they created a situation that was unlikely to end in a satisfying way from a fan’s perspective.
At least, it has ended.
And, under the unusual circumstances in play here, I would conclude that each party’s strategy was sound when it came down to the end. The Jazz kept open the possibility of trading him for as long as they could and Bell recognized that he might as well be paid his full salary.
The Jazz waived Bell on Sunday, after having already paid the veteran guard most of his $3.4 million salary and making themselves responsible for the rest of it.
The remaining questions: How did the Jazz benefit from keeping Bell this long? Did they block him from advancing his career?
We can debate the merits of the franchise’s unprecedented decision to have Bell stay home rather than report to training camp October or join the team at any subsequent point. But once the Jazz made that choice, they were shrewd to keep him on the roster until last month’s NBA trade deadline.
Nothing came of that opportunity, obviously, but Bell’s contract could have figured into any to balance the contracts.
As for Bell’s being held out of competition this season, the fact is he could have accepted a buyout and joined another team at any time — in particular, between the Feb. 21 trade deadline and the March 1 deadline for playoff eligibility. With no such offer available to him, he stuck with the original contract. That’s a sweet deal, if you think about it.
So the book is closed on Bell’s second phase with the Jazz, which will be remembered for his feud with coach Tyrone Corbin and his accusations that Corbin treated him “unprofessionally.” The Jazz’s biggest mistake, looking back, was awarding him a three-year contract at age 33. Otherwise, they would not have been stuck paying him this season while living in Miami.