- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Lakers are interested in signing free agent forward Raja Bell, according to a team source.
Bell, who played only six games in 2009-10 before undergoing season-ending surgery on his left wrist in December, is coveted for his defense and his ability to connect on corner 3-point shots that could fortify the Lakers inconsistent bench, according to the source.
The 10-year veteran, who turns 34 in September, averaged 13.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in 45 games with Charlotte in 2008-09, his last healthy stint before being traded to the Golden State Warriors in a deal for Stephen Jackson in November.
In the story first reported by Yahoo! Sports, Kobe Bryant was named as one of Bell's strongest supporters, the pair having apparently buried the hatchet after a 2006 first round playoff series between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers when the two exchanged blows on the court and insults off of it.
"I have no respect for him. I think he's a pompous and arrogant individual," Bell said before being suspended for Game 6 of the series for a clothesline foul on Bryant in Game 5.
Bryant was merely dismissive.
"I don't know this guy. I might have said one word to this guy. I don't know this kid. I think he overreacts to stuff. We go out there, we play the game and leave it at that. Maybe he wasn't hugged enough as a kid. I look at him a little bit, he gets a little insecure about something. I don't know," Bryant said the day after Game 5.
This exchange was preceded by remarks by Bryant after a Suns-Lakers regular season matchup that year when he scored 51 in a loss to Phoenix with Bell guarding him and said afterwards, "I've got bigger fish to fry than Raja Bell. Are you kidding me?"
The Lakers have $83.9 million committed to eight players for next season, nearly $16 million above the luxury tax threshold that comes with a dollar-for-dollar penalty for salary spent over that line. The Lakers will need to sign five more players (six if Shannon Brown opts out of his contract) and will have the mid level exception, valued at approximately $5.5 million, available to do so despite the team being so far over the $56.1 million salary cap.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. http://twitter.com/mcten