15 March 2011
"I didn't expect to be a starter [for the Utah Jazz]."
And yet Raja Bell has started all but a single game to date that he's played in, 60 of 61.
Scroll back through the pages of this particular blog and you'll find it at the forefront of the Bench Bell Brigade for some months now.
And for good reason.
Bell has inexplicably played far more minutes in his second stint for the Jazz than he should have for a guy that's been nothing more than a career role player in the best of times. In fact, his minutes have risen all year long to where he's now playing nearly 35 per-game. That's more minutes than starting shooting guards Kobe Bryant, Wesley Matthews, Kevin Martin, and Jason Richardson play.
And there's no need for this.
Over the last three games head coach Ty Corbin has fielded a three-guard lineup that puts Bell at the small forward position. He's not a good SG, let alone a SF.
Before you start in on me as a hater, I've praised Raja when he was good, but refuse to blindly drink Kool-Aid when he's been bad.
And he's been really bad.
Coming into it's March 14 game against the Philadelphia 76ers Bell was questionable with a tweaked pinkie toe. As a result CJ Miles was inserted into the starting lineup in his stead, a position that Miles' best numbers assert themselves in.
And yet Bell still played 36 minutes.
In the five games before Philly Bell gave up:
22 points and 3-6 from 3 to Sacramento's Marcus Thornton in 40 minutes
29 points and 7-11 from 3 to New York's Toney Douglas and Roger Mason in 32 minutes
33 points and 2-3 from 3 to Toronto's DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems in 45 minutes
19 points and 3-4 from 3 to Minnesota's Wesley Johnson and Wayne Ellington in 21 minutes
26 points and 6-10 from 3 to Chicago's Keith Bogans and Kyle Korver in 37 minutes
That's 26 PPG and 62% from 3 given up to Bell's man, or more points than league-leading shooting guard scorer Dwyane Wade and 12% more than league-leading 3-point shooter Matt Bonner makes.
Against historic 3-point shooter Kyle Korver, Bell played three feet off him, daring him to shoot. And Korver made him pay. Then against career .327 3-point shooter, Lou Williams of the 76ers, Bell crowds him on the perimeter and gets burned.
And nearly single-handedly choked away a 21-point lead.
At the 3:12 mark of the 3rd quarter Raja Bell checked into a game against Philly in which the Jazz had a 13 point lead.
With CJ Miles starting the Jazz jumped out to an 18 point halftime lead, a smart strategy. As I've said for weeks now, "would you rather start out from ahead and have to hold a lead, or repeatedly have to play from behind by starting Bell?" It's a no-brainer.
When Bell checked into the game he was charged with covering Philadelphia's Lou Williams, who had four points up to that point. Bell would play the remainder, giving up 18 points and 53% from the floor to Williams the rest of the way. The Jazz would be outscored 41-28 and be forced to gut one out in overtime from the time that Bell checked in on.
Jazz up 18 at the half. Bell gives up 18 points to Lou Williams in the 2nd half and finish the game all square. Hmmmm...
It's not enough that Bell may not be starting anymore; he's still playing too many minutes, giving up too many plays to the opposition. He hasn't come to terms with the fact that his game is fast deteriorating, recently quipping that he believes he "can still play the game at a high level."
No, Raja, you can't. You need to adjust your game accordingly, stop the denial. It's killing your team. Be a real leader, step aside for the greater good.
Finally we find Utah on the list for the SG position, 28th of 30 teams in the NBA, with a season-long -5.5 in efficiency differential, thanks largely to a player whose time has passed, who was never a primary player in the first place, and has been riding the rep of a single clothesline for years now.
"Minus 5.5 points," you say? "That's not so bad," you say?
Consider this: Over the course of 61 games, in which Bell has played starter's minutes, that's minus 335.5 points.
I implore you, Ty Corbin, Jazz brass, et al, play Raja Bell less. A lot less.
There's still time. But the bell tolls for thee, Utah, if you continue to lean on this career role player so heavily.
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