Friday, August 31, 2007

Bell Considering Euro Offers?

Charles Gardner reports that restricted free agent Charlie Bell is now considering European offers given the stalemate he's reached with the Bucks. Gery Woelfel reported something similar earlier this week on WSSP. Bell's agent Mark Bartelstein has made an absolute fortune off the Bucks, getting Mo Williams, Bobby Simmons, Jake Voskuhl and Awvee Storey favorable deals in recent years, but he's clearly hit a roadblock with Bell.

Bartelstein would not reveal the European clubs but said Bell had received "a couple terrific opportunities with very high-level teams."

"It's the Bucks' prerogative. They've got to do business, and Charlie's got to do what is best for Charlie," Bartelstein said. "The reality of it is, if the Bucks wanted him, they have the ability to sign him."
I've yet to hear any rumors about what the Bucks' current offer is, though they were required to make him a one-year tender offer worth just under $1 million to retain his early Bird rights. I'd guess they've offered something in the range of three years, $8-10 million, which is far below the deals Jason Kapono and Matt Carroll got. While Bell's a valuable utilityman who can defend both backcourt positions, he's also not a starter nor is he going to get much better. So why overpay Bell just because other teams overpaid Jason Kapono? Clearly other teams believe the Bucks' intentions to match any offer sheet he might receive, so upping the ante now would likely only be a case of the Bucks bidding against themselves. And given that's basically how Dan Gadzuric got his six year, $36 million deal, I'd like to applaud Larry Harris for learning from his mistakes. Here's my favorite line from Bartelstein:
"He's going to play his heart out, whoever he plays for," Bartelstein said. "If anything, it (a one-year deal) might enhance his performance because he would have something to prove."
There's something beautiful about an agent admitting that his client will play better if he doesn't have a big contract already. So note to Larry Harris: Charlie Bell will not be as good if you reward him with a long-term deal. Thanks, Charlie. Of course, the real beauty of this quote is that Bell was already coming off a contract year, but apparently his performance this contract year will be better than the last contract year. The bottom line is that while Bell could take the one-year deal and be a free agent next summer, it would be a huge risk. So Bartelstein is getting antsy. As a 28-year old who's never had a big payday AND who is coming off a career year (13.5 ppg in 35 mpg), Bell clearly would prefer to lock up a Matt Carroll-like deal (a vaguely reasonable $4.5 million per season, but for an incomprehensibly long six years) and be done with it. But Bell is never going to get those kinds of minutes this year unless the Bucks are again ravaged by injuries, so his numbers are bound to take a hit. That might not make him less valuable a year from now, but that's the reality of free agency.

The inclusion of the Arenas rule in the 2005 CBA fundamentally changed the nature of the negotiating process for top-name restricted free agents, but this year even sub-MLE type guys like Bell are having an awfully hard time getting deals done. Steve Aschburner at SI had a really good piece a couple weeks back about this, and since that time the big RFAs continue to sit and wait.

I'm not exactly clear what kind of money Bell could get overseas, but I still have a hard time seeing him go that route; it might take a little while longer, but Bell still seems a very good bet to be a Buck in 07/08. And if you're thinking it's getting a little late, remember that Michael Redd's offer sheet from the Mavs in 2002 didn't come until October 1, and the Bucks didn't actually match it until October 14. Pretty interesting to read about that situation now and think how the franchise might be different had Redd left. If Redd had left, Ray Allen probably doesn't get traded to Seattle...and who knows what else. In the meantime, who would have thought two months ago that Yi Jianlian would be easier to sign than Charlie Bell?

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