If, as expected, the Atlanta Hawks match the Utah Jazz's offer sheet for restricted free-agent Jason Terry, Larry H. Miller's team is likely to sign unrestricted shooting guard Raja Bell, who spent two years with Philadelphia and last season with the Dallas Mavericks.
Writer Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News on Monday quoted the 6-foot-5 Bell as saying, "It's been a long summer for me, but I'm going to sign with Utah in the next few days."
Sefko said Bell, who turned 27 on Friday, plans to sign with Utah because the Mavericks are offering only a minimum financial deal and because they have no roster spots available after signing Travis Best and acquiring two rookie guards.
Bell told Sefko, in a phone conversation Monday from Miami, "Going to Utah will be a good opportunity for me to play and a better opportunity to support my family."
However, a Jazz source who spoke with upper management Monday regarding Bell's statement said the deal likely hinges on whether Atlanta keeps Terry by matching Utah's offer by Thursday or lets him sign with the Jazz. "There's some interest there if we don't sign Terry," said the Jazz source.
Atlanta management has been quoted numerous times in the last week as saying it will match and keep Terry, and Terry has recently talked about staying there after meeting with the team's new owners. A story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution Monday said that the three-year, $22.5-million, front-loaded offer sheet that Terry signed with Utah gives Hawks' management a chance to budget for him and other players they now need to sign.
The Dallas Morning News story said Bell expects to sign with Utah no matter what Terry's status and indicates Bell expects a two-year guaranteed contract paying more than the $665,000-a-year minimum for a player of three years' experience.
The Mavericks have 15 players under contract, leaving little room for Bell, though those two parties discussed a two-year, minimum-salary contract for him earlier this summer, according to the Dallas newspaper. Sefko quoted Bell as saying he never demanded a figure other than something above the minimum.
Sefko quoted Mavs' president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson as saying, "We're not optimistic that we'll be able to come to terms with Raja. We wish him the best." Nelson said it is in Bell's "best interest" to go elsewhere.
Bell, a 1999 product of Florida International, is considered a defensive specialist who has an NBA career scoring average of 3.2 points a game, 3.8 in playoffs. He averages 1.7 rebounds a game, 1.9 in playoffs. His career-best scoring game was 16 points; his high last season was 13. He has twice had 12-rebound games.
Utah will start its training camp with media day on Sept. 30 with the first official workouts set for Oct. 1 at the Zion's Bank Basketball Center.
Four Utah players are attending this week's NBA-mandated Rookie Transition Program in Tarrytown, N.Y. They include 2003 draft choices Sasha Pavlovic, who has signed his contract with Utah, and second-rounder Mo Williams, who is expected to be signed next week, said team spokesman Kim Turner.
Also attending the weeklong sessions that teach young players how to cope with professional life are 2002 draft choices Raul Lopez and Curtis Borchardt, who spent last season on the injured list and thus didn't attend the transition classes.