This rumor has been lingering for a while: Raja Bell has been linked to the Los Angeles Lakers as far back as 2010, when he had dinner with Kobe Bryant in an attempt by the Black Mamba to lure his former foe to Hollywood. In the end, Bell decided to join the Utah Jazz instead of the defending champs, though.
However, Bell fell out of love with the Jazz and has since been pursuing a buyout from them for what seems like forever.
Bell’s name was linked to the Lakers last year – even before Mike D’Antoni was on the scene – and his name popped up again when D’Antoni was hired as the Lakers’ head coach in November. D’Antoni remains interested in Bell’s services even to this day, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.
Now, Bell is apparently telling his friends and guys around the league that he’s going to sign with the Lakers, according to Alex Kennedy, but the Jazz aren’t too keen to cooperate with Bell and buy out his contract if it means he’s going to join a rival who are chasing their playoff spot:
In a radio interview with Jazz Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin O’Connor – which was transcribed by The Salt Lake Tribune – O’Connor opened up about Bell’s buyout, saying that they were willing to cooperated with him the start, as long as Bell took less money:
O’Connor: I think it’s been from the start. We’ll be willing to look at a buyout. We’re not just going to let him walk away. We’re paying him the money. [Checketts: Right] He’s going to get money. He can’t get all the money from us and then go make more with the Lakers. Oh, thank you. I’d get fired for that. I’d fire me for that.
Checketts: Is it a situation where you would be motivated to keep him under contract so he doesn’t play for the Lakers?
O’Connor: Yeah, if we thought that was the best interest of the team. I’d like not to do that. I don’t think you want to be in a situation where you’re holding somebody hostage in that respect, but let’s go back. Raja said, “Hey, I’ll take a buyout.” We’ve said it from the start: All we want is a minimum buyout. We never heard from him. He never said yes to it. We would have done it right away.
Friday is the deadline for players to be bought out and still be playoff eligible if they sign with another team, so we’ll see if anything happens between now and then.