Utah Jazz on verge of contract buyout with Raja Bell

Published July 8, 2012 7:31 pm

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Veteran shooting guard Raja Bell told The Salt Lake Tribune on Sunday he has reached a verbal agreement with Utah for a buyout of his 2012-13 contract. Once the deal is formalized, Bell said he'll be free to sign with any team in the league.

"I've been given the greenlight and we've agreed to terms," said Bell, who's set to make $3.4 million this season.

A message left for Jazz General Manger Kevin O'Connor wasn't immediately returned.

Bell's already drawn interest from several clubs since free agency began July 1, and he acknowledged teams such as Miami, Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers are interesting to him. He would not specify which organizations have recently shown interest, though, since his buyout had previously not been made public and he wants to respect the Jazz's role in the process.

Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported Sunday that Bell has interest in returning to his hometown Heat, while the Lakers are a legitimate possibility.

"We typically play it pretty close to the vest. [Agent] Herb [Rudoy] and I are pretty private," Bell said. "But, in essence, [I'm] pretty much a free agent. I don't think the Is are dotted and the Ts are crossed. But we've been given the greenlight by Utah to go ahead and find something that works for us. We've agreed to the terms. So I think it's safe to say now we are in the market again and we're entertaining our options at this point."

Bell would prefer to join an organization that "wants to win" and joked he's too far along in his career to start rebuilding now. But he isn't fixated upon only joining a large-market, win-now team, and he's more concerned with finding the best fit for his game.

"My agent and I are just trying to find a good [situation] and we're exploring all our options," said Bell, who was Utah's main free agent signing two years ago.

Bell, 35, averaged 6.4 points and 1.4 rebounds last season while shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 39.1 percent behind the 3-point line in 34 games (33 starts). He only played in one contest after March 15, though, dealing with a left knee injury and publicly clashing with coach Tyrone Corbin.

During an exit interview, Bell said Corbin made things "personal" and the 12-year veteran made it clear he didn't want to play for Utah again.

O'Connor said during the season the small-market organization didn't know what a buyout was, inferring that Utah isn't in the business of paying players not to play.

But a two-month cooling-off process has calmed booth sides. Bell said Sunday he holds no ill will toward the Jazz and he greatly respects O'Connor.

"From the exit interview and to this point we've agreed that we're going to work on a buyout," he said. "I think we've got to a point where both sides are satisfied with it. … We agreed with Utah we were going to work it out. We got to a point where we've agreed that everybody's satisfied going forward, and so I've heard from — I can't put a number on it — a handful of teams."

He added: "Going into any situation, there's a risk involved. At least from my part, there's no hard feelings. It just didn't happen to work out. We'll go elsewhere and see what we can find that works for me."

Bell said he's in 100-percent health and has recently participated in CrossFit training sessions. He said if the 2012-13 season started Monday, he'd immediately be able to play.

"I'm in shape and ready to go," Bell said.

Brian T. Smith

Twitter: @tribjazz