Utah Jazz: Raja Bell turned down offer to join Heat and Big 3
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Kobe Bryant wasn't the only one who got turned down by Raja Bell this past offseason.
Before rejoining the Utah Jazz, the well-traveled NBA veteran also spurned overtures made by Miami management — a double rejection that likely further endears Bell to Beehive State basketball fans.
"I appreciated it," Bell said when Miami reporters asked about how close he came to joining the Heat over the summer. "But it wasn't the best situation for me at that point."
Money was one big reason why Bell returned to Utah, where he received a three-year, $9 million deal.
The concept of being a fourth wheel on the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh bandwagon — possibly even a rarely used spare — wasn't enough to entice Bell to turn his offseason South Beach home into his permanent residence quite yet.
On Wednesday, Bell recalled free-agency discussions he had with the Heat, whom he said were "interested" in his services while they were trying to lure James and Bosh.
Bell even received recruiting messages from Miami coach Erik Spoelstra.
"He sent me a couple of texts, saying that it was time to come play at home," Bell said.
His response: "I appreciate it. Good luck. I don't think it's a good fit for me now."
Added Bell: "He said he respected it and that if I changed my mind to let him know, because he thought I could be a big help to them."
The 34-year-old Bell has had some shooting struggles with the Jazz in his return, after missing most of last season because of wrist surgery.
But his defense and leadership have been a key component to the Jazz's strong start.
Bell, who scored 11 points in Wednesday's 111-98 loss to the Heat, hinted that it's possible he could play someday in Miami, where he played college ball at Florida International.
"I was excited about the prospect of finally getting to play in Miami," he said. "I've got family there. I went to school there. ... It's all right. Maybe I'll get a year in before my career's over."
Don't get him wrong. Bell is happy it turned out the way it has and that he's back in Utah.
"It was all cool," he added. "It just didn't work out."
ALL GOOD WITH ARROYO: Heat guard Carlos Arroyo, Bell's ex-teammate in Utah and at FIU, had his moments when he played for the Jazz from 2002-05. He averaged 8.7 points, 3.9 assists and 1.8 rebounds in 145 games before he was traded to Detroit.
But his time with the Jazz was plagued by clashes with coach Jerry Sloan, and he spent plenty of time on the Utah bench.
Arroyo told a Miami reporter he was immature when he played for the Jazz.
Sloan said he isn't holding a grudge.
"Everybody goes through those things," Sloan said. "There's not any hard feelings. A guy will leave for different reasons, whatever the case may be. I don't sit around and worry about what happened in the past. I'd rather keep my job and move forward."
Arroyo, a point guard when with Utah, is playing off the ball as a two guard for the Heat. He entered Wednesday's game averaging 7.1 points per game. Sloan is pleased to see his former player doing well.
"That's a part of growing up in this league — getting yourself acclimated to where you know you really belong in this league, then you can start doing the things you're capable of doing," Sloan said. "That seems to be what's happened with him."
INJURIES: Center Kyrylo Fesenko missed Wednesday's game with a sprained left ankle. The backup big man is considered day-to-day.
Bell retweaked his strained right adductor and Andrei Kirilenko strained his right quadriceps against Miami. Both are gametime decisions Friday against Orlando.
Also, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said the team remains unsure how long center Mehmet Okur (Achilles surgery) will spend rehabbing his left leg at a Santa Barbara performance lab.
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