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Kragthorpe: Raja Bell not giving way to Utah Jazz's youth movement yet

Published December 9, 2011 11:45 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Jazz guard Raja Bell was raving so much about the team's youthful talent that he just smiled Friday when reminded how those are some of the guys whose ability and potential may sentence him to the team's bench this season.

"That was me, when I came into the league," said Bell, 35. "It's kind of the circle of life, so it'll be fun."

Fun? That label hardly applied to Bell's 2010-11 season, and neither did words such as productive or successful. So if there's considerable curiosity in training camp about how Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks and other young players will perform, questions surround the old guy as well.

What can anyone reasonably expect from Bell, in the second season of his second stint in Jazzland? He's as eager as the rest of us to find out.

"I don't know what role I'm going to play on the team," he said. "I don't know what they're going to ask me to do."

Coach Tyrone Corbin wants leadership from Bell. Of course, that will be tricky if he's not even playing. That could happen because Hayward is developing steadily and C.J. Miles is finally fulfilling his promise — or because Bell is not playing any better than he did as a starter last season, when he was asked to replace some combination of three recently departed players: Ronnie Brewer, Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver.

While these guards were thriving elsewhere in the NBA, Bell was a major disappointment as a free-agent acquisition, shooting barely 40 percent from the field and averaging only 8.0 points in 68 games. By the season's end, when Hayward was scoring 34 points against Denver's disinterested team in the finale and Bell was sidelined by an injury, everybody was in love with the rookie. Bell? An afterthought, at that point.

"For one reason or another, it just didn't click for me," Bell said. "That was frustrating for me, more than anyone. But that's the reality of it. … You come back with a new attitude."

Corbin maintains that playing time will be determined strictly by merit, not by age — either in the sense of looking to the future or relying on veterans to win as much as possible this season. Yet it is clear that for the Jazz to create any sense of hope around here, they need Hayward to show growth. So Bell is at that awkward age, being asked to help the young guys while "he's competing for time on the floor himself," said Corbin, who once went through the same thing in his career.

This is simple, really: The Jazz need outside shooting, which Matthews and Korver formerly provided and Bell could not deliver last season. In Phoenix, he had become mostly a spot-up, 3-point shooter. The Jazz's traditional offense has more movement, with guards coming off screens and shooting.

Even if he knew the system, Bell failed to fit in well in his return to the team. Missing the previous season with a wrist injury affected him psychologically.

"I had a lot of pressure on myself last year," he said. "That could have been as much the problem as anything; I don't really know. All I know is I put in some good work this summer, and I'm ready to see what happens."

He's not the only one.







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