Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will meet with free agent guard Raja Bell to discuss a possible move to L.A. The two had a heated rivalry when Bell played for the Phoenix Suns, but now Bryant needs Bell’s talents on the Lakers if he is to compete with the new “Big Three” of the Miami Heat.
The two are scheduled to meet Wednesday in L.A. to discuss the numbers it would take to bring Bell to the Lakers. Bell will make the trip to attend ESPN’s ESPY awards show, and meet the 2008 NBA MVP. Bell has admitted to reporters that he has already had several telephone conversations with Bryant.
The rivalry between Bell and Bryant climaxed in the 2006 NBA playoffs. The Suns knocked out the Lakers in a seven-game fight to advance to the second round. In the fifth game of that series, Bell hit Bryant with a clothesline that defined the animosity shown by the two teams towards each other.
Since his run with the Suns, Bell has been playing for the irrelevant Charlotte Bobcats and Golden State Warriors. Bell was traded to the Bobcats along with Boris Diaw and Sean Singletary, for Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley.
Bell was again traded in 2009, this time to the Golden State Warriors, for Stephen Jackson and Acie Law. At the conclusion of the 2009 NBA season he was released by the Warriors, allowing the Lakers to take steps to sign the 33-year old.
The Lakers have been making key off-season moves so far this summer. They signed the former Portland Trailblazer and L.A. Clipper point guard Steve Blake. Signing Blake means the Lakers have $1.8 million left in salary cap room to offer Bell.
Phil Jackson’s backcourt is also bolstered by the recent resigning of Derek Fisher to the club. Fisher was a key piece of the Lakers’ championship puzzle last season, and the Heat took notice by trying to sign him. Shannon Brown also has not ruled out coming back to the team for a chance at another title.
Bryant is reportedly ready to put the past behind them in order to complete his second three-peat of his career. Kobe has obviously been paying attention to NBA news while watching the World Cup in South Africa. He could be feeling the breath of Dwyane Wade, and his new Heat teammates Chris Bosh and LeBron James down the back of his neck.
NBA sportsbooks have set the Heat as the favorite to win the 2011 NBA championship at 7/4 odds. The Lakers’ pre-season chances to three-peat have been set at 11/4.