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Questions surround Raja Bell's 'situation' with Jazz

Published January 6, 2012 12:25 am

Jazz • Frustrated Bell says management must sort out what his role is.
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Jazz guard Raja Bell said it's this simple: If Utah wants him on its team, he'll continue to do his job to the best of his ability. If the organization doesn't, the 12-year veteran will perform as a professional until he joins another franchise.

Bell's declaration came Wednesday during an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune.

It followed Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin's comment that any frustration Bell has about his role on the team needed to be addressed by the player himself.

"I think it's a better question for him to answer. I really don't — you'll have to ask him the question," said Corbin, who appeared caught off guard by the query and acknowledged he hasn't had a recent one-on-one talk with Bell.

Corbin added: "I don't think our relationship has been jeopardized any."

Messages left for Jazz General Manger Kevin O'Connor and Bell's agent, Herb Rudoy, were not immediately returned.

Informed of Corbin's statement, Bell said he wanted to clear up several misconceptions and put everything on the record. For the next five minutes, the 35-year-old guard discussed his personal life and professional pride.

New world

Bell rejoined Utah in July 2010 as the team's main free-agent signing, spurning the Los Angeles Lakers and inking a three-year, $10-million deal that reunited him with former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

Utah nosedived in 2010-11, though, and Bell was one of several players who became lost in the fallout of Sloan's resignation and the trade of All-Star guard Deron Williams.

Bell was so affected by team turmoil, as well as individual disappointment and unease, he resorted to taking sleeping pills so he could rest at night.

"I got to a place last year where I wasn't enjoying my time with my family," Bell said.

After serving as the Jazz's player representative during the 2011 NBA lockout, Bell entered training camp for the 2011-12 season with a clean mental slate. He said during media day he had no expectations and was willing to do whatever the team asked, and he drew praise from Corbin and O'Connor for his athletic physique.

Reflecting Wednesday on his cleared mind, Bell said he vowed before the year started that any uncertainty or negativity surrounding the Jazz wouldn't dent his renewed focus or prevent him from enjoying his personal world outside the NBA.

"I've got a life to live, man. I've got two little boys, a wife and one [child] on the way," Bell said. "This cannot affect me where I go home and take it out on them. I am 100 percent invested in that mentality."

Low point

But while a rebuilding Utah team has won two of three games and improved to 3-3, Bell's first six contests have ranked among the worst of his career.

Missed shots only tell part of the story, though, and neither Bell nor Corbin said the guard's 26.1 percent shooting from the field and 16.7 percent shooting behind the 3-point line are concerns.

"If you miss shots, that's not anything you should look for a change in a relationship with anybody. … I don't know where the other frustration may be coming from," Corbin said.

Bell's diminished standing and role on a team balancing the promise of youth with a desire to remain competitive are among the main issues.

He is the only Utah player besides Devin Harris and Gordon Hayward to start all six games, but his minutes have been severely limited and he's often been left out of the Jazz's offense.

Bell ranks 11th out of 13 Utah players in average scoring (2.3) and 10th in field-goal attempts (3.8), despite being the team's starting shooting guard.

After starting 63 games and averaging 30.8 minutes last season, Bell's averaged just 18.5 this year. He played only 13 minutes Tuesday during Utah's home win against Milwaukee, seeing less court time than 20-year-old rookie Alec Burks (28 minutes) and the 21-year-old Hayward (25).

"I come to do my job as best I can do it, play as hard as I can," Bell said. "I take pride in doing things the right way, trying to do them to help the team win. … Anything above and beyond that, I don't really know what anyone wants from me."

Leader needed

Harris said a Jazz team still without an elected captain needs Bell's leadership and experience.

Last season, Bell rivaled Williams as Utah's most active on-the-court guide. This year, Bell's still been engaged, offering in-game coaching and supporting his teammates. Even obvious moments of public frustration have been offset by his mentor role with young players such as Jeremy Evans, Hayward and Burks.

"It's tough. … But you've got to be a professional no matter what," said Harris, who dealt with inner-team struggles in New Jersey. "I know he wants to play more and he's in a tough thing, playing with some young guys learning how to play. But he does a great job of leading off the court and making sure he's setting that example that guys can learn from."

Asked if he has requested a trade or plans to, Bell said no, adding that his situation's resolution isn't up to him.

"Those aren't my decisions to make," Bell said. "I've been around long enough to know I have no control over that."

Asked if he wants to meet with Corbin to settle any differences, Bell said it's not his call to make.

"Listen: I'm the player. I don't make demands. I don't dictate playing time. I don't say who gets the ball. I don't call meetings," Bell said. "If someone wants to speak to me, I'm just here to do my job. I will go speak to them, no problem. I haven't been asked to come in for a meeting and so there's not really a problem."

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