Raja Bell finally received his buyout from the Utah Jazz and became a free agent, but it was after the “playoff eligible” date, meaning if he joins a team at this point, he won’t be able to play for them in the postseason.
Bell’s name was linked with the Los Angeles Lakers a lot for the past eight months or so, and the rumors started to swirl even more once Bell’s ex-coach Mike D’Antoni was brought in as the new head coach of the Lakers.
However, things never worked out, mostly due to the Lakers’ already high payroll.
Bell was very keen on joining the Lakers though, and he watched a lot of the games and saw areas where he felt he could help the team, according to Marc Stein:
Q: How hard was it then to hear your name linked constantly with the Lakers and how much Mike D’Antoni apparently wanted to bring you in and then not end up with them?
A: Unfortunately it became almost comical at the end. I heard Jalen [Rose] and Magic [Johnson] saying (on ESPN’s “NBA Countdown” show) that they thought I’d be with the Lakers within a day or two, which was frustrating because, knowing what was going on (with L.A.’s luxury-tax concerns), I knew it probably wasn’t going to happen.
Especially early on, when they weren’t playing well, I thought I could have really helped them. I’ve watched them play a lot and defensively, with Dwight Howard and his presence and Metta [World Peace] and Earl Clark — some of the rangy defenders they have — I could imagine myself out there with those guys. I just think it was a really good fit. I thought I could have helped them, but I knew they were really tax-burdened.
Bell says he’s in the best shape he’s been in for the last few years because he’s had so much rest recently, so would the Lakers look at bringing him in next year? It’s possible, especially if D’Antoni is still in town, but the team really needs to get younger, so signing Bell would probably be more of a last resort than a priority.