It sounds as though contending teams that expected to have a shot at signing defensive ace Raja Bell for the stretch run are going to be disappointed.
Reason being: Bell is not seeking a buyout from the Golden State Warriors.
The 33-year-old had wrist surgery in early December but is on course to make his comeback next month. After the trading deadline passed without the Warriors plugging his $5.3 million expiring contract into a deal, Bell would have been a natural free-agent target for playoff teams, such as Denver and San Antonio, seeking an extra wing defender to throw at Kobe Bryant.
Bell, though, told ESPN.com that he is not pursuing a buyout, which would have to be completed before March 1 for Bell to be eligible for the playoffs with a new team.
“I’m fully prepared to play here,” Bell said Friday.
Hearing that will undoubtedly please the Warriors, who want Bell to finish the season with them and still hold out hope that they can convince him to re-sign in Golden State this summer, since this is a young team clearly in need of example-setting vets who know how to win.
Can’t say I’d give the Warriors great odds of pulling off a re-signing -- since it’s hard to picture the ultra-competitive Bell being able to stomach a non-playoff situation for long -- but Bell did return to Oakland this week to start preparing for his return to the floor after spending the past two months after surgery at home in Miami.
He was one of two mid-priced Warriors, according to NBA front-office sources, who drew a fair amount of interest leading up to the trading deadline along with Warriors forward Ronny Turiaf.
Turiaf actually generated more interest, sources said, given his status as a proven off-the-bench big man who has a rep as a great chemistry guy and who has only two seasons left on his contract after this season at a total of $8.4 million.
Yet Golden State elected not to make a move at the deadline. Small or big.
Sources confirmed that the Warriors -- both early in the season and again closer to the deadline -- discussed a deal with Memphis that would have sent Monta Ellis to the Grizzlies for a package headlined by Grizz guard O.J. Mayo.
The sides didn't reach a consensus on a deal, partly because the Warriors have quibbled with the pieces that would be added to Mayo to make the salary-cap math work, but file this one away for the offseason because it makes some sense to both teams.
Memphis is reasonably close to Ellis' Mississippi base, which would give the Grizzlies a psuedo-hometown star if such a deal ever went through. A big, strong guard with ballhandling ability like Mayo, meanwhile, is precisely what many scouts believe Golden State ultimately has to have in tandem with fast-improving rookie Steph Curry.
Perhaps Golden State wants to wait until it knows where it's drafting in June before parting with Ellis, but it seems safe to suggest that we better add the future of the Curry-Ellis backcourt to the long list of stories to track in what is already being billed as one of the busiest offseasons in the history of the NBA's Transaction Game.