Suns Ready to Ring in 2005-06 Season With Bell
Posted: August 3, 2005
Free-agent guard Raja Bell was supposed to play in Steve Nash’s charity basketball game last Friday, but even the reigning NBA MVP couldn’t argue with the reason for the absence. After all, when your new team's head coach and front office invites you out for Sunday dinner, well...
“I told Steve I couldn’t make it because I had to sign this contract,” smiled Bell, following Wednesday’s press conference at America West Arena announcing his joining the Suns. "I think he understood.”
The five-year NBA veteran not only jumps onboard a team that had the best record in the NBA last season, he’s once again reunited with his former Dallas Mavericks teammate.
“It’s awesome,” said Bell, who played alongside Nash in 2002-03. “I’m so excited to get the chance to play with Steve again. He was one of the guys in Dallas when I was a young player and his tutelage was huge for me. So to get the chance to come and play for him was one of the major reasons I wanted to come to Phoenix.
“The Suns also sold me on the fact I could come in and make a contribution to a team looking to win a championship. Nobody can guarantee you anything, but the fact there was an opportunity to play was really big.”
Bell came off a 2004-05 season with the Jazz, in which he posted career bests in points (12.2 ppg), boards (3.2 rpg), assists (1.5 apg), field goal percentage (.454) and minutes (28.4) in 63 games off the bench. Leading the team in three-point percentage, he also shot 40 percent or better from behind the arc for the second time in the last three years.
But Bell says he's not sure what to expect this season, numbers-wise.
“My game will have to change a little bit,” said the 28-year-old St. Croix native. “I’ve been in a system for awhile now where you give the ball up and cut to the baseline. I’m going to start watching some tape and see what kind of opportunities I’ll have to make for others and then I’ll make for myself.”
Suns President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo said the 6-5 guard was high on their free-agent wish list this summer and has the ability to be a major factor for the club in 2005-06.
“Defensively, he’s an absolutely tough defender who can lock down some of the NBA’s top offensive players,” Colangelo explained. “What he brings offensively, he’s really become a much more proficient three-point shooter. He shoots a very high percentage from the field overall. He just seems to know how to play the game and where to be at the right time. He’s a guy who’ll play with a tremendous amount of spirit. He’s the right kind of guy to add to your team to help win basketball games.”
Even though winning wasn’t exactly a problem for the Suns last season, Bell ensures he’ll do everything to try and help his new team repeat their success for the upcoming campaign.
“I’m looking forward to getting back into the playoffs and getting a chance to play for something,” said Bell, who made an NBA Finals appearance with the Philadelphia 76ers as a rookie in 2001.
“I tasted that really early in my career. The last few years, unfortunately, I haven’t played after April. When those lights come on for the playoffs, that’s the biggest stage in the world.”
Speaking of the playoffs, the Suns are eagerly waiting to renew their rivalry with the team that ended their dream season last June: the San Antonio Spurs. With Bell’s addition to the Suns' roster, the two teams now have something else in common, in addition to battling it out for a Western Conference championship. The newest Suns shares the same agent as Spurs guard Manu Ginobli, who wasn’t exactly “excited” about seeing Bell heading to a conference rival.
“He plays like I play,” Bell said. “We just go at it. You have two guys who are competitors and want to win, who are bumping heads and knocking each other around. I have more respect for Manu than most players in this league. The fact that he would think of me like that is flattering. Having the same agent in Herb Rudoy, you’d think we were pretty friendly on the court, but we’re really not. Off the court, we’re fine.”
One person who’s thrilled with No. 19’s new address is Bell’s wife, who says her husband is more than ready to suit up for his new team.
“He can fit into any system,” said Cindi Bell, who was snapping pictures throughout the press conference. “He really loved being around Steve in Dallas, so I think he’ll be real happy here. We’re happy to take his word for what this organization was like and how family oriented it was here. This was his top spot to play.”
While getting Bell to smile as he addressed the Phoenix media for the first time Wednesday was no problem, apparently it was still a case of restrained emotion.
“He is more excited to be here than he’d like me to say,” Cindi laughed.