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Bell shooting for better accuracy

The Sports Xchange
Notes, Quotes · Bell shooting for better accuracy · Roster Report

A native of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Raja Bell intends to spend part of his offseason vacationing with family in the Caribbean. He plans to play plenty of golf over the next few months, too, which shouldn't prove problematic when home is in Miami.

But perhaps more than anything, the Jazz shooting guard -- now that the 2010-11 NBA season is in his rearview mirror -- looks forward to taking some time improving his aim.

"I'll be shooting a lot of jump shots this summer," the veteran guard said.

"Make no mistake, this year I felt it (his shot) failed me a little bit," Bell added. "But I didn't do enough work last summer (in 2010), so I'll do my best ... to try to work that up."

Bell's offseason routine last year was thrown off in part by a wrist injury that required surgery in 2009 and cost him an overwhelming majority of the 2009-10 season, which he started with Charlotte and finished with Golden State.

The Jazz signed the 11-year pro anyway last July, using a three-year, $10 million contract offer to keep him from joining the Los Angeles Lakers and instead bring him back for a second stint in Utah.

But the lack of summer shooting cost both Bell and the Jazz, evidenced by disappointing 40.9 percent shooting from the field, his worst in the last seven seasons. Bell's 35.2 percent shooting on 3-point attempts also was the first time in seven consecutive seasons that he's been below 40 percent from behind the long-distance line.

"I think he felt like he had an up-and-down year," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said of Bell, who averaged 8.0 points -- his lowest scoring average since the 2002-03 season -- while starting 63 of 68 games played for Utah. "Defensively, he felt like he did a great job. But he said, 'My bread-and-butter was my jump shot,' and he said, 'I wasn't as good at it as I had been.' I'm just repeating what he said."

If there was a saving grace for Bell, it was that he was mostly healthy throughout the season. He missed a few games with adductor muscle issues and a few more with a calf strain. He also missed the season's final seven games with a sprained right foot but admitted afterward that once the Jazz were eliminated from playoff contention he chose not to play simply "because it wasn't worth the risk." The wrist, though, held up just fine.

"I felt really good. I'm not upset about this season physically," the 34-year-old said. "My body was really, really good."

A 27-13 start for the Jazz was highlighted without a doubt by what has been dubbed the "Miracle in Miami," a Nov. 9 overtime win over the Heat in which Paul Millsap beat the buzzer with a putback to force OT and finished with a career-high 46 points. The Jazz rallied from 22 down, including 19 at halftime. Millsap made a career-high 19 field goals, including three uncharacteristic three-pointers in the final 30 seconds of the fourth quarter. Not to be forgotten either is Al Jefferson's last-second tip of a Devin Harris miss for a two-point win at Toronto on March 9.

It would be easy to point to coach Jerry Sloan's Feb. 10 resignation as the turning point in the Jazz season, and just as easy to look at the trade of All-Star point guard Deron Williams to New Jersey about two weeks after that. But reality is that after opening the season 27-13, Utah went 12-30 the rest of the way -- and the slide started well before Sloan and Williams exited. A six-game losing streak in January hurt tremendously, as did the fact that the Jazz went 4-10 in Sloan's final 14 games -- including that aforementioned six-game skid.

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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