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Everything On The Table For Raja Bell, Jazz

Over the past few months, Raja Bell has made known his desire to distance himself from the Utah Jazz and move on with his career. His first stint with the Jazz nearly a decade ago was successful, allowing him to prove his worth at the NBA level after going undrafted. As he turned into a fan favorite in Utah, Bell also grew close with Jerry Sloan, and once Sloan retired abruptly in 2011 – spiraling the Jazz into a youth movement – Bell slowly got lost in the shuffle as a 36-year-old without solidified stature.

Yet as Bell and the Jazz have tried repeatedly to move forward with a viable separation, the situation has become dysfunctional. At one point during this past offseason, the two sides appeared to have reached a contract buyout for the one year and $3.48 million remaining on his deal, but those talks never came to fruition.

As general managers around the league often say, when both parties have the same goal in mind, it almost always gets worked out. And still, Utah has long decided that Bell won't play for the team again, to which Bell has responded by saying he just wants to head to a team where he’d be utilized properly.

These negotiations have had so many twists and turns, recently Bell’s agent, Herb Rudoy, told RealGM that a buyout was not being discussed anymore. Yes, some details during the phone conversation were lost in translation, but the impression many around the NBA have gotten is that nothing has been ruled out, and that a resolution must get done one way or another – whether through trade or a buyout.

At this juncture, everything is on the table for Bell and the Jazz – either a trade or a buyout – and Bell admitted as much Tuesday afternoon in an interview with 560-WQAM in Miami. These negotiations have continued so extensively that it remains a fluid situation where almost no one has a clear idea as to how the end-game will turn out.

Suddenly, a week after his camp declared buyout discussions were tabled, Bell was adamant on Tuesday that all avenues are possible now.

“It’s a waiting game,” Bell told the radio station, “until they can either get rid of the contract and trade [me] to someone or we can find a good situation for a buyout.

“I’ve been assured by the Jazz that their intentions aren’t to leave me at home and let me rot for the last couple years of my career. … Hopefully, I’ll be back on the court soon, but I’m missing it.”

The relationship deterioration between Bell, the Jazz and people surrounding the organization has been a sad development. He engrained himself as a true member of the Jazz, the type Sloan loved coaching, throughout his first run with the organization from 2003-05. He has acknowledged two of the biggest pulls during his free agency summer of 2010 were the opportunity to again play under Sloan and the chance to contend alongside Deron Williams in the backcourt. But Sloan suddenly stepped away from the game, Williams was traded to the Nets, and the Jazz went into rebuilding mode.

Bell knows he has a couple seasons remaining in his NBA career, an unforeseen journey after he went undrafted in the 1999 draft. People within the league are well aware Bell can help a contender with his strong outside shooting and tough-minded defense. Those traits haven’t gone anywhere, and Bell badly wants to forge his way to a team like the Heat, but he also is cognizant his abilities won’t be around forever. And that’s why he told the Miami radio show that he hopes to resolve his situation with Utah within the first couple months of the season.

After months of back-and-forth and flip-flopping, it’s now abundantly clear that everything – any possible outlet to move past each other – remains on the negotiating table for Bell and the Jazz.

 

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