Utah Jazz: Injured toe not only factor in Raja Bell's benching

Published: Tuesday, March 15 2011 9:00 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Turns out Raja Bell's move to the bench in Monday night's game was not based solely on the usual starting shooting guard's toe injury.

Coach Tyrone Corbin thought the struggling-out-of-the-gate Utah Jazz needed to mix things up, so he started C.J. Miles in Bell's place.

The handling of that change — one that seems likely to stick for a bit even though Corbin did not officially confirm that at Tuesday's practice — didn't sit all that well with Utah's newest bench player.

Whether or not that scenario repeats itself tonight, however, remains unresolved for now.

"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 initially sparked 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, Corbin opted to keep that lineup change even after the usual starter became available for action.

With newbie Derrick Favors also filling in for injured 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."

Bell, a season-long starter, said he's fine with that. He's even anticipated the move and thinks it should be a permanent change.

But — and this is a drama-filled but — Bell was not thrilled with how he was informed about being relegated to a reserve role.

That might come as a surprise to Corbin, who sounded as if things went smoothly between him and his veteran guard when the message was relayed Monday.

"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, that quick chat was not handled in the manner Bell 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 in order to be appeased.

Likewise, the 34-year-old didn't complain about the actual switch. 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 are dealing with a slew of injuries (including his toe).

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," said Bell, a game-time decision tonight. "It was confusion (Monday) 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."

As for Miles, he doesn't believe there will be any rancor between himself and Bell if he indeed becomes the full-time starter.

Though he seems to play better when he's on the court at tipoff, Miles isn't openly campaigning for the starting gig, either.

"I play when they tell me to play," Miles said. "I told (Coach) I like minutes, that's pretty much it. I just want to be on the floor, be able to play, be able to help the team.

"If he keeps it that way, so be it," he added. "I've been in every situation, so it's not a big deal. I'm just going to play hard."

That is the bottom line for Bell as well.

"I said when I came (here) I was going to do whatever they needed me to do," Bell said, referring back to signing a three-year contract last summer. "So whatever capacity that is, I will be ready to go. … I don't really mind coming off the bench. It's not a big thing."

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