Utah Jazz reach agreement with swingman Raja Bell

Former starter 'thrilled to be back' with Utah franchise

Published: Wednesday, July 14 2010 7:00 p.m. MDT

Forward Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs makes a three point shot to send the game into double overtime in front of Raja Bell #19 of the Phoenix Suns in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2008 NBA Playoffs on April 19, 2008. The Jazz reached an agreement with Bell as long as he passes a physical.

Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY — A familiar face is joining Utah's freshest.

One day after trading for Minnesota big man Al Jefferson, the Jazz agreed to contract terms with free agent and ex-Jazz starting shooting guard Raja Bell on Wednesday night.

"Raja is thrilled to be back in SLC," Bell's agent, Herb Rudoy, said via e-mail. "He has nothing but great memories of the years he spent with the Jazz.

"Before free agency began, I asked Raja to give me a short list of teams and the Jazz were on it. He really wants to play for (coach) Jerry Sloan again!"

Bell — who spurned attention from Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers and a reported offer from Chicago — is coming off recent wrist surgery that curtailed his 2009-10 season. His signing is contingent on passing a physical exam.

But the deal means Utah won't match the five-year, frontloaded $32.5 million offer sheet starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews signed last Saturday with Portland.

"They (the Jazz) said if (Bell) passes his physical they're not going to match," said Matthews' agent, Lance Young.

"From an emotional standpoint, it was tough. I mean, I love Wes Matthews," Jazz CEO Greg Miller said. "He, to me, personifies everything the Utah Jazz stand for. He's tough, he's blue collar, he grinds it out, he never quits."

Utah had been considering several other perimeter players, chief among them ex-Jazz starting shooting guard Ronnie Brewer, former Los Angeles Lakers guard Shannon Brown and former San Antonio Spurs swingman Roger Mason.

Brown's and Mason's agent, Mark Bartelstein, said the Bell agreement means neither of those two clients will come to Utah.

Brewer's agent, Henry Thomas, didn't immediately return messages.

By surprisingly turning to Bell, 33, the Jazz get a veteran presence with an intense defensive mindset and a bona fide 3-point shot.

"I know (Jazz general manager) Kevin (O'Connor) has been working and I'm really excited that Raja's here," Miller said shortly before greeting Jefferson at Salt Lake International Airport. "But I think tonight should be about Al.

"I'm honored he (Bell) is with us," Miller added. "I'll leave it at that."

Bell has played 10 NBA seasons with six teams, including two seasons — 2003-04 and '04-05 — in which he was a low double-digit scorer in Utah.

The U.S. Virgin Islands native and Miami-area product started his college career at Boston University and finished it playing next to ex-Jazz point guard Carlos Arroyo at Florida International University.

He started 36 of his 145 games with the Jazz, and also has spent time with Philadelphia (part of one season, all of another), Dallas (one season), Phoenix (three-plus seasons before a trade), Charlotte (50 games) and Golden State (one game).

A career 41.1 percent shooter from behind the long-distance line and a 2007 All-NBA Defensive Team selection, he was limited to five games with Charlotte and the one with Golden State last season.

He underwent surgery in early December to repair a ligament tear in his left, non-shooting wrist.

ESPN.com reported Bell's deal is for three years and worth nearly $10 million. It's not known if any of the seasons are team or player options, if it's fully guaranteed or if there are games-played clauses.

The website also quoted unnamed "sources" in reporting that "Bell also received a two-year offer from Chicago on Wednesday worth in excess of $8 million, but the second year of that deal was incentive-based depending on Bell's ability to appear in at least 60 games."

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