Bell to delay surgery, try to play

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Raja Bell wants to tough it out without being a liability. The Charlotte Bobcats likely need their starting shooting guard if they want a realistic shot at the playoffs.

Tuesday was a day of optimism for both sides, with Bell hopeful he'll be able to play this season with a torn ligament in his left wrist and put off surgery that would sideline him up to four months.

"I'm going to [sit out] for another week to see if it continues to progress as it has, then I'll probably wind up playing," Bell said after participating in practice with his non-shooting hand heavily taped. "If it doesn't, then we'll go back to the drawing board."

Bell was injured when his wrist bent awkwardly as he tried to grab a loose ball in an exhibition game on Oct. 18. He sat out the final two preseason games after tests revealed the torn ligament. Bell got a second opinion from a Chicago hand specialist who told him he can play if he can withstand the pain.

"I'm pretty encouraged," Bell said. "It's feeling a lot better than it did. I still have some hurdles to clear with it, but I feel good."

Bell will sit out Wednesday's season opener in Boston, leaving the Bobcats short-handed because Flip Murray hasn't been cleared to return from a stress reaction in his left shin. Coach Larry Brown said Stephen Graham will start against the Celtics ahead of rookie Gerald Henderson.

"I'm not afraid to play Gerald Henderson, but I don't want his first NBA game chasing Paul Pierce and Ray Allen around right off the bat," Brown said.

Guarding the top scorers has been Bell's job since Charlotte acquired him from the Phoenix Suns in December. But Bell acknowledged defending and passing will be more difficult with the injury.

"Defensively, it's tough. It's hard to kind of put your hand on people, it jams it," Bell said. "Taking a charge would probably be a scary thought for me right now. And it gets so heavily taped that passing and dribbling, anything to my left, is a problem. That really hinders your game. ... I have to be able to play with a little less tape to be effective."

Bell said his shooting isn't affected because he doesn't have to snap his left wrist on the release. Bell averaged 13 points and four rebounds and shot 42 percent from 3-point range in 45 games with Charlotte last season. The Bobcats, though, saw their playoff hopes derailed when Bell was sidelined with a calf injury near the end of the season.

If his wrist doesn't improve enough in a week or so, Bell said he could undergo exploratory arthroscopic surgery to make sure the corrective surgery is needed. The arthroscopic surgery would keep him out four to six weeks. Surgery to repair the ligament would sideline him three to four months.

Playing this season would help not only the Bobcats' playoff hopes but also Bell's financial prospects. He turned 33 last month and is in the final year of his contract after the Bobcats rebuffed his request for an extension in the offseason.

But Bell also doesn't want to be so limited by his left hand that he's ineffective.

"To help this team I'll have to be able to use it, so I'll take that week and see if it continues to heal," Bell said. "As soon as I feel I can be on the court and not be a liability -- meaning people can't just sit on my left hand -- I'll be back."