Raja Bell Rejects Lakers, Heads to Utah

Raja Bell will continue to be a thorn in the flesh for Kobe Bryant. Bell turned down a chance to play for the Los Angeles Lakers and become a teammate of longtime nemesis Bryant, jumping instead on the opportunity to return to the fold of the Utah Jazz.

Player agent Herb Rudoy said Bell has agreed to sign a three-year contract with the Jazz for $10 million, reuniting the 33-year-old defensive specialist with coach Jerry Sloan. “He loved playing for Jerry. He loved living in Salt Lake,” Rudoy said, adding that Bell did not have a hard time deciding which team to pick. Bell played for the Jazz from 2003 to 2005, the same period when his NBA career began to flourish.

Bell’s decision came despite an aggressive recruitment pitch by the Lakers, with no less than Bryant initiating the negotiations to bring the feared defender to Hollywood. Bell is known for his infamous clothesline of Bryant in Game 5 of the 2006 first-round playoff series between the Lakers and the Phoenix Suns. Bell, who was ejected in that game, said afterwards that he intentionally clotheslined Bryant as retaliation for continually hitting him in the face.

Bell and Bryant, who had talked on the phone and exchanged text messages the past few days, was supposed to meet personally on Wednesday. The meeting was scrapped after Bell told Bryant that he was accepting the Jazz offer.