You watch the games, you see the scores, but how do you really know what's going on in NBA Playoffs 2006? NBA.com has infiltrated the action with the ultimate insiders -- the players themselves. We're giving you an exclusive look at the postseason with a roster of player mailboxes.
Phoenix's Raja Bell averaged 14.8 points and 3.2 rebounds for the Suns this season.
CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS MAILBOX
Q: What do you think will be more important regarding Sam Cassell: to stop his offense or stop his passing?
--Dang, Brisbane, Australia
Bell: I think it's more of just stopping Sam offensively. He's one of their major point producers so if we could just get him to put that burdon on other people I think that would be our best strategy.
Q: I was wondering what kind of pressure was placed on the team when you guys were down 3-1 to the Lakers? Does the coaching staff put more pressure on the older players and the stars? Good luck against the Clippers!
--Peter, Minneapolis, MN
Bell: Thanks for the good luck. No, there wasn't a lot of pressure put on us by any outside sources or from the coaches. The only pressure came in us thinking we were the better team and wanting to go out there and prove it.
Q: Who do you think will be the most difficult to guard on the Clippers and why?
--Louise, Phoenix, AZ
Bell: Well I only guard guards so to me it's a toss up between (Corey) Maggette and Cuttino Mobley because they're both really good, really strong offensive players.
Q: Raja, could you roughly outline where the turning point in you career was? I followed you in your 76er days and it looked like you were still blooming but to look at the Raja Bell of the Suns, I could not compare the two. Was changing teams the spark you needed?
--Persian, Ottawa, Ontario
Bell: I think with any player in the league, all you can try to do is get better every year. That's what I've been trying to do and as I've been in different systems they've given me opportunities to get better at different things so I'm continuing to get better.
Q: Coming back to win round one from a 3-1 deficit, does that have any positive effect on the confidence of the team as far as what the team can really do?
--Johnny, Albany, GA
Bell: Yeah it does. Being down in a hole like that and knowing you can play under that kind of pressure and come together as a team to get it done when it matters most has to give your confidence a boost.
Q: How will you guys stop Elton Brand?
--Gilly, Phoenix, AZ
Bell: I don't know that you can stop Elton Brand. He's one of those players that's just too good to expect to stop him. We've got to do a better job of limiting his good opportunities and good looks at the basket so that'll be what we try doing tonight.
Q: You have played with both Allen Iverson, and Steve Nash, who has the ability to take over the game better, and who really puts it on the line body and all?
--Art, Vancouver, BC
Bell: They both put it on the ball body and all whenever they play which is one thing they have in common. And they both can take over a game only they do it in different ways. Allen takes over the game with scoring kind of guard while Steve can take it over with scoring in need by but definitely with playmaking so they're different in that respect.
Q: I'm really tired to still ear some experts tell that you guys aren't going anywhere in the postseason because of your run and gun offense. How do you answer these critics?
--Marco, Olbia, Italy
Bell: I just ask why we can't win with a run-and-gun offense, that's it.
FIRST ROUND MAILBOX
Q: Does (Kobe) talk trash when he plays and scores the ball?
--Jordan, British Columbia, Canada
Bell: No, we donít really have a dialogue. You know, we both go about our business. I try not to get into talking. If he is talking, heís talking to himself, because Iím not getting into it.
Q: Why do you take such pride in your defensive abilities? --Ryan Peoria, AZ
Bell: That is the way I learned how to play and the way I was able to stay in the league. It always means something to me to take the challenge defensively and do the best I can do.
Q: Its pretty safe to say that Kobe and Lamar Odom are the best two players on
the Lakers. With that said, is there a third player that you guys are going
to focus on as well?
--Sonjdre, Danbury, CT
Bell: Yeah, I think theyíve kind of rotated it. But I think more than anything itís Luke Walton. Heís been able to make some plays and make some plays for other people. Sometimes you can live with two guys doing work on you, but whoever that third guy is going to be, if itís going to be Smush, if itís going to be Luke, if itís going to be Kwame, we have to eliminate that third party and try to deal with two.
Q: Which team out in the Western Conference are you most worried
about facing in the playoffs and why?
--Harv, Peoria, AZ
Bell: Right now for us itís the Lakers. Thatís it. You know, weíve got one hill to climb right now and if we get over it, when we get over it, weíll deal with that next hill in front of us. But right now, itís all Lakers.
Q: Is Kobe Bryant the most difficult player in the league to guard?
--Danny, Inglewood, CA
Bell: Heís tough.
Q: Hi Raja - I sit in Row 1 of Section 210 ... we call it the Bell
Tower. Do you really hear our bells ringing for you?? There is a chorus
that now consists of 14 school bells that toll for you once for every
assist and loudly on every score!
-- Terri, Peoria, AZ
Bell: I do hear the bells ringing. Itís motivational knowing youíre getting that kind of support up there. I canít always hear people screaming in the stands but Iíve definitely got an ear for the bells.
Q: During the playoffs, the level of intensity rises--a lot! How do
you use that intensity to your advantage without letting it mess with your
head? Do you have pre-game rituals or what? --Emilia,Spartanburg, SC
Bell: Itís a fine line between having the right intensity and being over the edge. So you kind of let your emotions play the game for you. You do all your homework before the game and then you go out there and play on emotion and heart and hope that that takes care of it. As for pre-game rituals, I have a cup and a half of coffee and a Red Bull. I gotta put my jersey on first, first thing I put on, and then I take it back off and warm up in just my practice gear.