SALT LAKE CITY — Even though he'll be 34 years old when next season begins, and 36 at the start of the last season in his new three-year deal with the Jazz, Kevin O'Connor has no concerns about Raja Bell's age.
The fact Jazz coach Jerry Sloan "really does a great job of monitoring minutes," O'Connor added, should ease any concerns.
By way of example, the Jazz general manager mentioned Bruce Bowen, the longtime San Antonio Spurs defensive specialist who played until he was 38.
He has no worries, either, that a wrist tendon tear prompting December surgery limited Bell to just six games with Charlotte and Golden State last season.
"I actually think it's better — less minutes on the legs," O'Connor said. "He keeps himself in terrific shape, and it wasn't a leg injury that he had. It was a hand. That can happen to anybody."
Bell, who previously played in Utah from 2003-05, reached agreement Wednesday on a three-year contract worth nearly $10 million.
He still must pass a physical exam to make the deal — for which the Jazz used part of the midlevel exception money, since they're over the NBA's team payroll salary cap — official.
Bell isn't expected to complete the physical until next week. If all's good, he should be reintroduced in Utah shortly after.
But O'Connor on Thursday lauded the acquisition as "a key piece" who "can guard (an opponent's) best perimeter player and wants to."
O'Connor said he was practically "begging" Bell — who also was weighing an offer from Chicago and being courted by the Los Angeles Lakers — to return.
"But as we talked about it, I think he saw an opportunity. He knows who we are, and I think that's the great thing about it," O'Connor said. "You know, he wanted to play for (Coach) Jerry (Sloan) again. He's been here before. We know he's a competitor, and he and Coach have a terrific relationship."
Putting a third year on the deal apparently did the trick, giving Utah a defensive presence who also can spread the floor with his shooting and who knows his way around the Jazz system.
"I think Raja knows what '11 C' is. You know, he ran it for a couple years," O'Connor said. "I think he knows how to defend when we blitz on the screen-and-roll."
MATTHEWS SURPRISED: Matthews was surprised to learn that, as long as Bell passes his physical, the Jazz plan to let him go to Portland.
"I thought they would match," he told Fanhouse.com. "After all, they said I was a priority.
"They (the Jazz) said I was a priority, but they never made me an offer," added Matthews, who signed a five-year, $32.5 million offer sheet with the Trail Blazers. "They never offered me anything. I'm sure that if they would have made an offer, it would have been a fair offer, and I might have taken it."
TRADE TAKE: One take on the Jazz's Tuesday trade for Minnesota big man Al Jefferson, from ESPN.com's John Hollinger:
"I consider this a pretty solid endgame for Utah. Jefferson can coexist with both Paul Millsap and (Andrei) Kirilenko offensively, and while the former pairing might have some rough nights on D, they'll be a hellacious combo offensively. Jefferson will have to get used to more pick-and-rolls and fewer post-up isolations, but he can handle it.
"The Jazz ... (have) kept the window open on the possibility of the Deron Williams era producing a conference championship. They've managed to come away from (Carlos) Boozer's free agency none the worse for wear."38 comments on this story
MISC.: Ex-Jazz shooting guard Ronnie Brewer's agent, Henry Thomas, texted Thursday morning to say Utah's agreement with Bell means Brewer won't be rejoining the Jazz. ... O'Connor said the Jazz won't rule out spending what remains of their midlevel exception money — it would have to start at less than $3 million less per season — but if they did, it would be on inside help, not another perimeter player. The Jazz GM said Utah's biggest need continues to be a "big, long guy that can block shots." Jefferson's career season-best for blocks, incidentally, is 1.7 per game. ... O'Connor said that, at least for now, he expects 2010 second-round draft choice Jeremy Evans to attend training camp and fight for a roster spot rather than pursue opportunities in Europe.