By Marc Stein
Raja Bell goes in for a wrist operation Thursday that’s kind of a big deal.
Especially if you like to follow the trade market.
Only by having surgery can Bell and the Golden State Warriors learn the severity of the torn ligament in the 33-year-old’s left wrist.
Bell has been advised by experts in the field that a full-blown repair will sideline him at least four months and potentially the rest of the regular season. In the best-case scenario, though, Bell could be back in a month.
Which would almost certainly put him right back on the trade market.
I'm told that a few contenders have already registered their interest by making inquiries about Bell’s availability even though he just got to Golden State on Nov. 16 in the Stephen Jackson deal. Makes sense, too. What contender couldn’t use a wing defender of Bell’s stature who can also drain the weak-side 3 and who happens to be playing on an expiring contract valued at a reasonable $5.3 million?
If screws are not inserted in Bell’s wrist and he can be back in a month to six weeks, there’s little doubt his name will start coming up a lot leading into the Feb. 18 trading deadline. The unknown variable then would be what the Warriors demand to part with Bell.
The Dubs can package Bell with other players starting in mid-January, but they aren’t overflowing with unsavory contracts that they’re desperate to move now that Jackson is gone and with Monta Ellis looking increasingly inspired. Corey Maggette’s contract is the only one that really fits that description ... and no contender is taking on Maggette’s deal no matter how much they like Bell.
But Golden State also wouldn’t want to simply buy out a healed Bell and let him choose his contender – even if the trade deadline passes without the Dubs finding a deal – because its locker room badly needs an example-setting vet.
Bell quickly showed what kind of influence he can have in Oaktown by insisting to play in Boston on Nov. 18 because the Warriors had only eight other healthy players ... after it had already been decided that he’d be having the wrist surgery. The Warriors' collective team spirit has been much better since Jackson's departure and Bell's willingness to play that game is seen as one of the catalysts.
UPDATE: Put San Antonio up high on that list of interested contenders. Given the Cavs' longstanding dialogue with the Warriors on the Jackson front, I have to believe Cleveland has or will explore the Raja option, too. And there will be more teams to surface if the surgery is screws-free.