The last time we heard from Raja Bell here on SRI, he was extremely upset with the ways the owners were handling the lockout, namely how they were putting all the blame on the players for the impasse in collective bargaining. In this interview however, the Utah Jazz shooting guard and defensive specialist sounds very upbeat now that the lockout has been lifted and the return of NBA basketball on Christmas day is just around the corner. The soap opera surrounding Chris Paul and Dwight Howard is once again beginning to dominate the headlines, and who better to hear from about the potential consolidation of even more stars in a select number of high profile cities than a player who’s made his living for small market teams? Bell understands the pros and cons of super teams in the NBA and feels these were the freedoms the players fought for during the lockout in the first place. Raja Bell joined 790 The Ticket in Miami with The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz to discuss ‘super teams’ starting to emerge in the NBA from the perspective of someone who plays for a small market team, if the formation of a few more ‘super teams’ would make small markets like Utah irrelevant to the NBA, wanting to play for the Knicks if they landed Chris Paul to team up with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, what parts of the new CBA was he disappointed about, and losing 20 percent of his salary during the NBA lockout.
As someone who plays in a smaller market do you like the idea of ‘super teams’?
“As far as the super teams? I think it’s an interesting situation because if you take a player’s leverage away from him what options does he have? Really the only leverage a player has in that situation is to hold out and say he is not going to sign the extension and that’s how he can set a market for himself. If you take that ability away from him I don’t know what you would be creating.”
If I make 4 or 5 super teams wouldn’t that make Utah irrelevant?
“Yeah I think there is something to that. I think surely if you end up with five or six super teams then you are going to create a problem for the Utah’s, the Sacramento’s, the Memphis’s, but I don’t know how you guard against that. I think at some point you have to love a league or a sport for what it is. We’re certainly not football. We don’t have the same business model as football although the owners really wanted that. We don’t have the same product as football and we are not the same as baseball, so if you love a sport you have to love it for what it is worth. I mean if you wanted parity let’s say and you wanted a team like Memphis or Utah to compete…I heard an interesting take on it the other day. You should make it a one game playoff series. Then you have an opportunity for a lesser team really to beat a super team because on any given night you could have a team beat another team, but in a seven game series it’s pretty much impossible, so if you were looking for parity and a more entertaining product allowing more teams to compete maybe that is the solution.”
If the New York Knicks do get Chris Paul and he teams up with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire which team would Raja Bell rather play for? The Knicks or the Heat?
“That’s a good question. That’s a good question. I got ties to both cities. [Dan LeBatard: Make it the team and not the city!] Alright. Alright. If I had to pick I’d probably go with…this is just me from my perspective. I’d go with…the Knicks because I have a point guard and I exist off people creating plays and finding an open spot on the floor and trying to knock down a jump shot, so if I am going to look out for myself and try to exist within an offense and within the team then I would go to New York because they have a point guard who I know can distribute the ball.”
We had you on before the new CBA was in place. Now the CBA is pretty much done. Were you disappointed how the new CBA came out? Did you guys cave?
“Yeah…look I think…I don’t know that we caved. I think we realized as a union that there was not as much to be had there as we might have thought going into the negotiations. Maybe that was just the facts. Maybe we set the bar a little low to begin with. You can dispute that all day, but I think when we got right down to it and push came to shove how much more were we going to gain in the negotiations with an ownership group that seemed hell bent on getting what they want? Having said I think we were able to kind of hold on to some of the system issues that we absolutely necessary for us to have to allow player movement and to allow people to create markets for themselves, so I think a lot of us understand the owners got a really, really, really good deal for themselves, but that was going to be the case regardless. It then became about what we could save and what could hold onto that would preserve the game going forward and allow us to share an industry that continues to grow globally.”
You lost 20% of your salary during the NBA lockout?
“Yeah. Yeah. I think so. [Dan LeBatard: You know how much that is!] I will never say that on air. The fact of the matter is I think that we were prepared to lose something and were prepared by our union prior to this happening for this scenario. We knew we were going to miss checks. Even though I may in my hearts of heart believed we could have gotten this done without having this check – I think that was always going to be the scenario that played out at the end of the day. If you are asking me as a player if I am happy with the deal that I can go back to work and earn 80% of my money this year and play the game that I love to play that I am blessed to play for a living? The answer is yes.”