With the hiring of Mike D'Antoni as coach, the Los Angeles Lakers are showing a renewed interest in trying to find a way to sign exiled Utah Jazz guard Raja Bell once his contract buyout is completed, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Bell, 36, has had strong advocates with general manager Mitch Kupchak and Kobe Bryant since the summer, but D'Antoni's history coaching Bell with the Phoenix Suns has amplified discussion of signing the veteran guard should the Lakers create an opening on their roster.
With a $100 million payroll and $30 million in additional luxury-tax expenditures, the Lakers are unsure about cutting a player, paying his salary and then paying the additional salary ($1.3 million) and tax that it would take to sign Bell.
The Lakers have tried unsuccessfully for several weeks to trade bench players to create roster space.
"The biggest question is the taking on of more money," a league source told Yahoo! Sports.
Bell is still under contract with the Jazz, but the team has allowed him to stay away this season until he finds a suitable offer and the two sides can execute a buyout. Once Bell has secured a contract for the veteran's minimum elsewhere, the Jazz will buy out the difference on the remaining $3.5 million on his 2012-13 contract. Bell wouldn't lose any money between the buyout and joining a new team.
Utah has allowed Bell and his agent, Herb Rudoy, to search out deals elsewhere. The Chicago Bulls have shown some interest in Bell, too, but haven't made any offers, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
When his minutes and role diminished a year ago, Bell began to clash with Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. Bell started 30 games for the Jazz a year ago, but his minutes steadily decreased over the season. Bell had long been considered a quality perimeter defender and a credible 3-pointer shooter, but several league executives, scouts and coaches wonder how much of that proficiency is still left in his game.
Bryant has been a proponent of acquiring Bell once he's a free agent – and has communicated that to Bell, sources said – but Los Angeles signed shooting guard Jodie Meeks and absorbed several contracts in its trade for Dwight Howard.
Bell has been working out in his hometown of Miami, preparing for his chance to return to the league.
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