Utah Jazz: Struggling team adds a little drama moving Raja Bell to bench
SALT LAKE CITY — Turns out, Raja Bell's move to the bench in Monday night's game was not solely based on the usual starting shooting guard's toe injury.
Coach Tyrone Corbin also thought the struggling-out-of-the-gate Utah Jazz needed to mix things up a bit, so he started C.J. Miles in Bell's place.
Turns out, there's some drama around the handling of that change — one that seems likely to stick for a bit even though Corbin did not officially confirm that at today's practice.
"We'll see," Corbin said when asked if Miles would remain a starter. "We've got so many guys in and out of the lineup right now. We're just trying to find minutes for the different guys."
An injury situation led to Monday's lineup alteration, although it wasn't the only factor.
After inserting Miles into the starting shooting guard position during morning shootaround due to Bell's inability to participate because of a sprained pinkie toe, the new Utah coach opted to stick with that lineup change even after the usual starter became available for action.
With newbie Derrick Favors also filling in for Paul Millsap at the starting power forward spot instead of rookie Jeremy Evans, the Jazz got off to one of their best starts — defensively and offensively — in quite some time en route to their 112-107 win over Philadelphia.
"We've struggled, and it wasn't just Raja," Corbin said. "We added Derrick in the lineup also. We've struggled in the first quarter. We wanted to change a little (bit)."
Though he's been the starter all season, Bell said he's fine with that. He's even anticipated the move.
But — and this is a drama-filled but — Bell was not thrilled with how he was informed about his new position as a backup.
Asked how Bell took going to the bench, Corbin sounded as if things went smoothly between him and his veteran guard.
"He was good," Corbin said. "He played minutes. He did a good job. He was OK with it. I talked to him beforehand, before the game, and told him what we're going to do."
However, Bell didn't think that quick chat was handled in the manner he would have preferred.
"As a player I would just wish, you know, I've had a pretty long career — you can come to me as a man and chop that up with me instead of just have it be as brief as it was," the 11-year-veteran Bell said. "As I said, I wish it would've been a little different, but it wasn't and I still have a job to do."
Bell didn't detail how much dialogue or explanation he needed to be appeased with the situation.
Likewise, the 34-year-old didn't complain about the actual switch, either. He still played 36 minutes in the victory, scoring five points with four boards off the bench.
Miles had 19 points, including the overtime-forcing bucket with 9.1 seconds remaining in regulation, and played 39 minutes.
"I've said all year that the way we play, the one-on-one style of play that we do play and employ, that C.J.'s probably a better fit, so it was inevitable," Bell said. "I knew that was coming. I just wish that it had been more of a man-to-man thing — like straight up (tell me) honestly, 'Look, this is what we need to do,' instead of the way it went down.
Continued Bell: "On the other side of that, I am going to do whatever I need to do to help this team win, and I'm supporting whatever decision (coach) makes. It's not personal. You asked me if I liked the way it went down and I said no. But it is what is. He's learning on the fly. I give (coach) credit for that."
Bell said he wouldn't make a big deal of it to Corbin, especially in light of how the Jazz are struggling to find solid footing and dealing with a slew of injuries.
On Tuesday, six players remained questionable to some point on their availability for Wednesday's rematch with Minnesota.
Millsap (knee), Devin Harris (hamstring), Gordon Hayward (foot) and Ronnie Price were going to attempt to practice and will be game-time decisions against the Timberwolves.
Francisco Elson (knee/ankle) was planning on participating at half-speed and is questionable Wednesday, and Mehmet Okur (back) remains out.
Bell (toe) seems good to go, even if he's a bit irked.
As far as he's concerned, the issue is in the past between him and Corbin.
"I think he's got enough on his plate. I'm going to let that ride," Bell said. "It was confusion yesterday morning. … (Later) I told him that I was playing and when I got back to the gym he just (said), 'We're going to leave C.J. in the lineup.' Which is fine. I just wish it would have been a little more graceful than that."
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