Raja Bell names Miami as his fairest free agent destination of them all

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RBell.jpgDue to a troublesome left wrist injury, Raja Bell has largely stayed off of NBA radar this year.

Then again, it’s tough to say how how prevalent a blip on the radar screen Bell would have been even if he had played. Though once regarded as a lockdown defender, Bell’s lateral movement had already begun to decline during his season with the Charlotte Bobcats in 2008-2009. He still has worth as a stand-still three-point shooter, but the defensive skills and tenacity Bell used to earn a spot in the league are a bit diminished.

That isn’t to say Bell is no longer a good defender, just that he doesn’t quite have the mobility to keep up with elite perimeter scorers. Bell can still be a horse in the defensive stable, but should probably be the second or third horse in line. Only this particular horse has the opportunity to choose his own stable this summer, and this metaphor has quickly gone from pretty bad to incomprehensible.

Anyway, Bell, who despite losing lockdown defender status is still a serviceable NBA player, is an unrestricted free agent at this very moment (he does not have to wait for free agency to begin because he was not on an NBA roster at the end of the 2009-2010 regular season), and will make his comeback next year. According to Bell, the Miami Heat are his first choice, should Pat Riley require Raja’s services.

It’s tough to say whether this move is motivated by basketball or personal affairs, mostly due to the potential for turnover with the Heat’s roster. The only players guaranteed a contract for next season are Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers, Daequan Cook, and probably Joel Anthony. It seems more and more likely that Dwyane Wade will come back to the Heat in 2010, but right now the situation is anything but certain. There’s definitely potential for Miami to be a quality playoff team next season in the East, but we won’t really know until we know, will we?

Miami is also Bell’s hometown, where he played both high school and college ball (Florida International).

It’s unclear exactly what kind of salary Bell could command at this point, but assuming the Heat are looking to surround a core of Wade and another star with veterans, Raja could get the call. He won’t be a high salary player, and could definitely be a target to fill in the role on the wing that James Jones was supposed to occupy, but hasn’t been able to.

Quinn Cook signing two-year contract with Hawks

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The Hawks began last season with just two point guards, one fewer than most teams – especially notable because neither starter Dennis Schroder nor backup Malcolm Delaney was experienced for his role.

Schroder and Delaney return, but Atlanta is adding another option – Quinn Cook.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Cook is a borderline NBA player. He might not make the regular-season roster. He also might supplant Delaney for a rotation spot.

A 24-year-old who has spent most of the last two years in the D-League (also getting stints with the Mavericks and Pelicans), Cook is a good outside shooter. He’s also steady, if unspectacular, in his lead-guard duties.

This is a solid flier at a position the Hawks could use depth.

Knicks sign Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jamel Artis

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The Knicks signing Nigel Hayes leaked first.

But New York didn’t stop there.

Knicks release:

The New York Knickerbockers announced today that the team has signed forwards Jamel Artis and Nigel Hayes and guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

Like Hayes, Artis (Pittsburgh) and Rathan-Mayes (Florida State) went undrafted this year – making them eligible to be waived and assigned to the Knicks’ minor-league affiliate. That’s likely all three’s fate.

But first, each will have an opportunity to make the regular-season roster. The Knicks have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving one roster spot for someone on a standard contract. Chasson Randle (unguaranteed) is the incumbent choice, but these three could supplant him.

O.J. Mayo says abusing prescription painkillers triggered NBA ban

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Last year, O.J. Mayo was banned from the NBA for at least two years due to a drug violation. Aside from stating a plan to come back, Mayo didn’t say much publicly.

Until now.

Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

He acknowledged smoking marijuana and abusing a prescription pain medication that triggered his two-year ban because it is on the NBA’s “drugs of abuse” list. (He emphatically denied testing positive for hard drugs like cocaine.)

Mayo also concluded that he had been “overwhelmed” by a string of difficult life events: his father, high school basketball star Kenny Ziegler, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for distributing crack cocaine, his brother was placed in juvenile lock-up, a close friend went to jail, and another was killed. “I was bred to play basketball and I thought I could balance everything,” he said. “I couldn’t.”

That’s part of an interesting feature on Mayo, who’s training for his come back. Golliver’s story makes it easy to pull for Mayo.

But the guard will be 30 when he’s eligible to apply for reinstatement, and he played lousily in his last three seasons with the Bucks.

Hopefully, Mayo has and keeps his personal life in order. But returning to the NBA will be an uphill battle.

James Harden throws alley-oop to Chris Paul, pair puts on show at Houston charity event

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What chemistry problem?

There are legitimate questions about how Chris Paul and James Harden will share the backcourt and ball with the Rockets, but none of those were on display on Sunday. That’s when CP3 joined his new teammate in Harden’s charity game (raising money for Harden’s charity, which helps children from single-family homes get a higher education), a kind of pro-am with some names thrown in to draw a crowd.

Harden and CP3 put on a show for the fans.

This is a charity event, not every team is going to defend like this or the Phoenix Suns. It’s going to be harder when the games matter.

But the Rockets are going to be entertaining to watch this season. No doubt.