Utah Jazz: Straight shooter Bell was off target for much of year
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to interviews, Raja Bell is a guy who says it like he sees it.
So much so, the straight shooter off the court didn't try to hide the fact he wasn't exactly, well, the accurate shooter he'd hoped to be on the court this past season.
After sitting out the majority of 2009-10 with a wrist injury, Bell's shot had a bit of rust on it in his return to the NBA and the Utah Jazz in 2010-11.
The career 43.3 percent shooter only made 40.9 percent of his field goals overall, and he had his worst 3-point-shooting season in a decade.
Bell entered the year with the same career 3-point average as Kyle Korver (.408), but the current Jazz player only hit 35.2 percent from long range this past season.
(Korver, meanwhile, shot 41.5 percent from beyond the arc. And while we're on the ex-Jazz shooting guard stats, Wesley Matthews nailed 40.7 percent of his treys in Portland.)
Bell's shot — one he tried to tweak throughout the season — will be on his mind and on his to-work-on list when he returns to the gym in his offseason home of Miami.
"It was up and down. I think I could've played a lot better," Bell said of his overall season. "The year off didn't really allow me to focus in on what I needed to work on (last summer), because I hadn't played and I didn't know what that is. This year, I have something to go to the gym and work on."
Added Bell: "I know my shot failed me at times, and so I can go in the gym, and instead of touch and brush up on a lot of different parts of the game I can focus on something. So I'm excited about that."
Bell, who has two years remaining on his three-year deal, relayed his frustrations about his hit-and-miss shot to Jazz management during his exit interview last week. He averaged 8.0 points in 68 games, marking the first time since 2002-03 that he hadn't finished scoring in double figures.
"I think he felt like he had an up-and-down year," Utah GM Kevin O'Connor said. "I think defensively, he felt like he did a good job. And he said, 'My bread and butter was my jump shot and ... I wasn't as good at it as I have been.'"
That sums up the entire year for Bell, who lost his starting job late in the season and who battled various injuries this past season. He missed the final seven games with a sprained right foot and also missed seven more games with groin injuries and a strained left calf.
"It wasn't the season I wanted to have by any stretch of the imagination," Bell said. "But it wasn't a wash. I thought I played well at times. I was just pretty inconsistent."
Bell's candor and professionalism are appreciated by Jazz brass, who remain optimistic he will bounce back.
"Guys like that have a tendency to understand what needs to be done," O'Connor said, "and come back and have an even better year next year."
Bell said he will take about a month off before returning to work on his game in preparation for next season — assuming there is a next season.
"I'll do my work as usual. I'll be in a gym," the 34-year-old said. "If the lockout takes a while, it just means more work in the gym."
Bell, who will be 35 before the next Jazz game tips off, admitted to being excited to come back for a 12th NBA season. He's "very confident" the Jazz will also turn things around.
"I think every season on every team you're optimistic about the future. If you weren't, it would be a pretty bleak forecast. It'd be hard to go into the summer and do your work," Bell said. "You've got to be optimistic. I think we've got a lot of good young players, and I think (Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin is) only going to get better.
"So, yeah, I'm excited to see what can happen here, see if Kevin and those guys can draft well or sign the guys that they want to sign."
In light of a 39-43 season that saw the departure of his Hall of Fame coach and All-Star point guard, it was suggested to Bell by a TV reporter that this probably wasn't what he signed up for.
"I did sign up for it. I signed up to come play for the Jazz," Bell said. "When you sign a contract, you kind of take the good with the bad. That's what you chose to do and where you chose to go.
"The end result isn't what I wanted, but I played as much a part in that as anybody so I can't really point any fingers or be mad," he added. "I just have to do my part this summer and come back ready to play. I am disappointed. I thought we started off very well, and it kind of spiraled from there."
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