Utah Jazz: Raja not scoring, but helping in other areas

Published: Sunday, Jan. 1 2012 10:28 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Raja Bell is a smart NBA player.

He can do math, too.

So, yes, he's aware that hitting 5 of 17 field goals through four games falls into the rough start category.

"I would like to be a shooting a higher field-goal percentage," said the 12-year veteran, who's shooting 29.4 percent. "But, ultimately, I don't think it really matters if I make or miss my three shots in a game."

Obviously, Bell wants to make those precious few shots (4.25 per game, to be precise) — if not get more looks.

But the veteran isn't the only offensive goat on a struggling 1-3 team that's averaging just 90.5 points on 40 percent shooting.

Scoring is just one part of his job. Considering his gritty defensive style and other Jazz weapons, oodles of offense isn't necessarily what the team needs from him.

As the starter, Bell gets the first crack at Kobe Bryant, Manu Ginobili and other top-notch scoring threats.

"He knows how to play different guys," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said.

Asked for an assessment of his 2011-12 start, the 35-year-old said he's making an extra effort on defense because his offensive game hasn't arrived yet.

"If something's not working, you've got to try to make a difference somewhere else," Bell said. "I think I'm doing a good job defensively."

So does Corbin, who defends Bell's defense.

That's why the second-year coach has kept him in the starting lineup even while some fans plead for rookie shooting guard Alec Burks — a more explosive scorer — to get more playing time and/or to start.

"I feel comfortable with what he's doing. He's playing his defense," Corbin said. "I thought he did a good job on Ginobili in the first quarter (Saturday), and then he had that run in the second quarter."

When Bell was on the bench, mind you.

But the guard's effort isn't predicated on his shots falling or not.

"All I can do is go out there and play hard," Bell said. "If Ty and (coaches) think that I'm a good fit, then I'll go out there and try to do my best."

Offensively, Bell knows he has nowhere to go but up.

"Unfortunately, I didn't feel like it necessarily clicked for me last year on offense and I'm struggling again," he said. "But I'll keep plugging away at it. The one thing I know I can control is busting my (behind) defensively, so that's what I'm doing."

DISCUSSING D: The new Jazz defense (allowing 104.0 points per game) remains a work in progress, which will require more talking and effort to help each other out.

"Communication falls into rotations," Jazz forward Josh Howard said, "because you've got to talk on defense, not saying nobody didn't talk (Saturday). We've just got to want it a little bit more."

THE OTHER ROTATION: Corbin wants to play as many guys as possible, but he's narrowing in on who'll receive the most minutes.

"More than likely, we'll play eight or nine guys on a more consistent basis," he said, "so the guys can know when they're going in the game (and) they can get a good rhythm going on."

Ten of the Jazz's 13 players are averaging double-digit minutes. That group: Al Jefferson (30.0), Paul Millsap (27.3), Gordon Hayward (27.3), Derrick Favors (26.3), Devin Harris (24.0), Howard (23.0), Earl Watson (20.5), Bell (19.8), C.J. Miles (18.8) and Enes Kanter (15.8).

That's left Jeremy Evans (6.5), Burks (6.0) and Jamaal Tinsley (4.0) fighting for scraps.

Email: jody@desnews.com. Twitter: DJJazzyJody

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