Monday, September 17, 2007

Heat Sign Bell To Offer Sheet

The Miami Heat have signed Charlie Bell to a five-year, $18.5 million offer sheet.

Since Bell is a restricted free-agent, the Bucks have seven days to match the Heat’s offer. If not, Bell will get his wish to leave Milwaukee.
"I hope they don't match it," Bell said Monday afternoon in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "The Bucks said they didn't have this kind of money and didn't want to give me a long-term deal, so I would hope they stick to what they said and let me go. ... I'm really thankful Miami stepped up."
The Bucks didn’t budge with a seemingly disgruntled Yi Jianlian earlier this summer, eventually winning him over and signing him. Don’t expect the entire Bucks organization to go so far out of the for Bell though, especially now. The difference in the two situations is that the Bucks are extremely high on Yi and are lukewarm on Bell. Making Yi the sixth pick in the draft and offering Bell only a three-year contract are reflections of that.

But it's not a matter of the Bucks neglecting to realize Bell's true value and importance. Rather, the progressive direction of the team cannot be bogged down by risky, low-reward, long-term contracts. The Bucks surely couldn’t have envisioned signing Bell would be so difficult, especially as a restricted free-agent. He fits in well on the team. The Bucks and Bell both know that. But that doesn’t mean he’s such a perfect fit in four or five years. The Bucks need to put the future of the franchise first, and by not overpaying they will have done that.

This season is another story. Losing Bell, arguably one of the top backup guards in the Eastern Conference, would only damage the team's already shaky playoff aspirations. Potentially losing him to a contender within the conference would only compound the problem.

Still, if the Bucks were going to lose a free-agent guard to the Heat, they picked the right one. Mo Williams will combine with Michael Redd to form an excellent starting backcourt. Lynn Greer and perhaps recently signed Ramon Sessions will play increased roles off the bench. It’s also been reported that the Bucks have recently worked out Dee Brown and other guards.

The Bucks play the Heat for the first time this season on January 2. Even if Bell is playing against the Bucks in that game, he won’t be the most important former Milwaukee basketball guard to hold in check, as Dwyane Wade still holds that title.

In any event, my cautious optimism that Bell will remain in Milwaukee has officially been downgraded more than a few levels, but this story isn’t quite over.

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