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.

Robin Lopez helpfully stopped to tie Jae Crowder’s shoe (VIDEO)

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Why did Robin Lopez tie Jae Crowder‘s shoe during Sunday’s Game 4 between the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls? We may never know. Perhaps he was just helping the Celtics forward after he tossed him to the ground? Or maybe he’s just doing weird Robin Lopez things?

In any case, Lopez helpfully stopped to tie Crowder’s shoe after it came off during a battle down low early in the third quarter at United Center.

Here’s how it went down.

Via Twitter:

I still have no idea.

Noticeably frustrated, Russell Westbrook gets prickly with reporter after loss to Rockets (VIDEO)

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The Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets played an ugly game down the stretch on Sunday. The Rockets employed a hack-a-Andre Roberson strategy, while the Thunder played sloppy and often poorly with Russell Westbrook out of the game.

The latter was the subject in question when Oklahoman reporter Berry Tramel spoke with Westbrook and Steven Adams at a postgame press conference following the Game 4 loss, 113-109.

Tramel’s question — whether the Rockets got a boost when Westbrook was off the floor — was directed at Adams, but the Thunder MVP candidate couldn’t let it go.

Snapping at Tramel, Westbrook told him not to split them up.

Via Twitter:

Tramel’s question is legitimate, and one of the overarching themes of this series thus far. Westbrook’s response is pretty far off the mark, but it did tell the story of how he’s feeling going away from Chesapeake Arena down 3-1.

Game 5 is on Tuesday in Houston.

Kevin Love throws full court pass to LeBron James for sweet and-1 bucket (VIDEO)

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Kevin Love and LeBron James were locked in an epic battle with the Indiana Pacers during the first half of Sunday’s Game 4 playoff matchup. Part of that matchup included yet another long, full court pass between the Cleveland Cavaliers duo.

Love, as you might guess, was the passer and LeBron was again the receiver.

The play came in the final minute of the second quarter, with Love nabbing a rebound from the right block and LeBron jetting down the floor.

Love’s pass was perfectly placed, and Paul George just didn’t have the strength to keep him from getting the and-1.

Cleveland completed the series sweep on Indiana with the win, 106-102.

Nene’s 28 lead Rockets past Thunder for 3-1 series lead

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Nene scored 28 points on perfect shooting from the field, and the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-109 on Sunday to take a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Nene made all 12 of his shots and had 10 rebounds. He helped the Rockets overcome an off night by James Harden, who finished with 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting.

Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each scored 18 points for the Rockets. Trevor Ariza had 14.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in Houston.

Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook had a triple-double by halftime and finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. The Thunder said Westbrook joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to claim three consecutive playoff triple-doubles.

Steven Adams scored 18 points and Victor Oladipo added 15 for the Thunder.

Westbrook had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at the break. He grabbed the 10th rebound in the final second of the second quarter, and the Thunder led 58-54 at intermission. Meanwhile, Harden made just 2 of 9 shots and scored just six points in the first half.

The Thunder opened the second half with a 10-2 run, but Houston closed to 77-73 at the end of the third quarter.

Adams made the first of two free throws with 21.7 seconds remaining to cut Oklahoma City’s deficit to four. He rebounded his missed second free throw and found Westbrook for a 3-pointer that cut Houston’s lead to one point. But the Thunder lost track of Nene on the other end, and he converted a three-point play. Gordon’s two free throws with 6.2 seconds made it a four-point game.

TIP-INS

Rockets: G Patrick Beverley was fined $25,000 by the NBA for confronting a fan after Game 3. The league announced the fine about two hours before Game 4 tipped off.

Thunder: Westbrook had just one turnover in the first half. … Adams went 6 for 6 from the field in the first half. … Westbrook missed all six of his shots in the third quarter.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.