The Charlie Bell standoff continues and it's becoming a pretty tiring soap opera, but I guess it's a fitting conclusion to the Summer of Yi. After Bell's trip to Greece apparently didn't bring the leverage needed, it appears that Bell's new strategy is to convince the Bucks to allow him to sign with another NBA team, despite Larry Harris' insistence that the Bucks remain hopeful of bringing Bell back. Charles Gardner at the JS writes:
Mark Bartelstein has said Bell no longer wants to play in Milwaukee, but Bell also seems unwilling to take the offer he has from Greek club Olympiakos. So it stands to reason Bell (and his family) are hoping to avoid a return to Europe, the only problem being that he can only sign with another NBA team if the Bucks elect not to match the offer. Over on his MySpace blog Bell's made it abundantly clear he wants to leave:
Harris said the Bucks had made a three-year offer worth $9 million, and he said the team raised its offer after Bell traveled to Greece last week and received an offer from Olympiakos, one of the noted club teams in Europe.
"We felt like it was a fair deal," Harris said. "We respect Charlie and the decisions he has to make for him and his family. We hope the dialogue can continue and we can eventually get something done."
This summer has been long and trying for me and my family with many ups and downs. I am grateful for the offer by milwaukee last week and I was willing to accept it with a minor change. But the ultimatum and take it or leave it approach permanently poisened me and changed my desire to even be in Milwaukee anymore. I know that because my heart is no longer there I will not be able to be the player they want or need. They could offer me 10 million dollars/yr now and it would not change my heart. I can't play to the best of my ability if I'm miserable. I can't sabotage myself or a team like that. The Bucks will sign a player whose heart will be with the team. Good luck this season.There's another post addressed "to the real gmer's and jsonliner's" so evidently Bell has been reading those boards (and perhaps even this blog after TrueHoop linked to us last week). Unfortunately the post is listed as private so I don't know what it says, but needless to say this whole process has obviously become extremely convoluted and personal. Bell--a versatile player who worked as hard as anybody to get to the NBA and whose game is defined by his willingness to do whatever the team needs--is trying to publicly convince the Bucks that he just wouldn't be able to be that guy anymore if he returned to the Bucks. Really? Given his beef is purely with the front office, it seems hard to believe Bell would be so emotionally damaged by the negotiations that he couldn't play hard for teammates, coaches and fans who DO value his abilities (and perhaps even overvalue them). On the one hand you understand at least some of Bell's frustration and can't begrudge him for trying to do anything possible to get what he wants, whether his currency is money or the vaguer idea of "respect." After all, it's a free country, right? But now we've reached a bizarre situation where a hard-working, high-character bench player is essentially trying to convince the Bucks that he would become the very opposite of that were he to return. Sorry, but I really don't buy it. It's an awkward move for a guy like Bell, who's been universally liked by fans and teammates for his play the past two seasons. Now he's working against that reputation by saying his heart wouldn't be in it if he returned, yet it's difficult to make that argument without rubbing a lot of people the wrong way.
Make no mistake, Bell won't find it easy getting a good deal elsewhere. The public theatrics are the first step--make the Bucks not want to bring Bell back, while convincing other teams it's now safe to give him a generous offer sheet. What could Bell get on the open market, and can Bartelstein really convince teams that the market is open? It's difficult to say where Bell's value is, but it's likely somewhere in the $3-5 million range for three to four years. But even given what's transpired in the past week, the Bucks have no reason to help Bell out by clearing the way for him to sign elsewhere. Even if the Bucks no longer wanted Bell back, they'd likely continue to put up an optimistic front, if for no other reason than to avoid being cowed into submission. At the end of the day, the real question is probably whether Larry Harris and company are really concerned Bell might be a problem if he's brought back against his will. Given a) Bell and his family had settled in Milwaukee and with the Bucks' players and coaches b) it'd be totally out of character for him to give less than his best effort and c) his frustration is simply the product of a drawn-out negotiation, I just can't see Bell "sabotaging" the team if the Bucks match an offer sheet from another team.