Raja Bell Interview
Tuesday night in the Western conference finals of the 2006 NBA Playoffs the Phoenix Suns rocked the Dallas Mavericks to tie the series 2-2. Suns swingman Raja Bell came back early from injury to help his squad win. Here's what he said right after Game 4 in the post-game press conference:
Q. Raja, how did you do that, get prepared, work through the injury? Can you take us through how you got ready for this game tonight earlier than expected?
RAJA BELL: You know, our training staff did a great job with me. You know, they kind of kept me off of it the first couple of days even though I was anxious to get on it. So I think the rest really helped me a lot. And then I wasn't able to do a whole lot yesterday so I didn't know exactly how it was going to feel today. But I was pretty committed to trying to give it a shot, and they were pretty fair with me about letting me do that.
Q. Raja, how does it feel now after the game and talk about what you expect tomorrow?
RAJA BELL: They told me it's going to be pretty sore tomorrow. So I'm expecting it to be pretty painful. But they also said that Thursday it should recuperate a little bit and feel better than it did today. So I'm excited about that. And I'm just going to take it one day at a time.
Q. Raja, when was the decision made to let you start and Coach said the trainers didn't want you to, and who did you convince and how?
RAJA BELL: The decision, I guess, was made maybe a half hour before the game that I was going to play, and Mike made the decision to start me. I thought that I could maybe spell LB for a couple minutes here and there, maybe, you know, allow him to get a break. But the convincing was basically just going out on the court and showing them that I could run and I can move and that, you know, I would be careful. I had to promise them if I felt I couldn't do it I'd let them know. So I was pretty honest with them.
Q. So when you were warming up, were you still kind of testing it out to see whether you were going to be good to go?
RAJA BELL: Yeah. I had no idea if it was going to let me move the way I needed to move, and, you know, I still hadn't run full speed going out there, you know, for the start of the game. So I was really waiting to see if it was going to let me get up and down the court. I tried to simulate some stuff. But it was better than I thought in the running situation. But it wasn't 100 percent. So hopefully it will continue to get better in the next couple of days.
Q. Raja, in the fourth you went up for the lay-up and afterward you pointed at the bench, you stayed in, took a charge, but then you went out. Was it more of a scare thing?
RAJA BELL: The one thing I knew I wasn't going to be able to do today was really explode off the left leg. That was the part of the problem coming into the game, and they weren't really confident. So I tried to stay away from situations like that. And I kind of forgot that it was injured at that point. And more than pull it, it just hurt a lot. So I think I avoided a bullet there so to speak because if I had really tried to jump, it might have hurt a little bit more.
Q. Raja, can you kind of recount a little bit of the give and take with the TNT guys? I know at the end it was pretty lighthearted, I think you said you heard something when you were in the training room?
RAJA BELL: Yeah, I was pretty emotional, like I said, just because like on a night like tonight my job was to be emotional. So, you know, I heard them say if I wasn't, you know, ready to play that I should defer to some of my teammates, it was too big of a game to hurt my team. And, you know, I just felt like, you know, I know who I am and I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't put my team in a situation that I thought would hurt them. And, you know, my ego is not in the way of our goal here. So I felt like I could come out and give LB some minutes and give Coach whatever I had. And, you know, I was ready to help. And it was on Coach to use me as he felt fit.
Q. Raja, do you maybe feel like a modern day Willis Reed?
RAJA BELL: No. Come on now. No way. I'm glad to have helped in this game. It was a big game for us. We couldn't afford to go down 1-3 and go back to Dallas. We dodged a bullet in the first round with the Lakers and didn't want to have to do that again. So I was glad to be able to help tonight. And, you know, hopefully we can go to Dallas and get another one.
Q. Raja, can you confirm Mike's story that your agent called him last night and said either play or you have to shoot him?
RAJA BELL: I can't confirm that. I don't know. Herb does his own thing. I talked to him yesterday afternoon and told him I was going to make a run at it. And, you know, I told him that, you know, somebody was going to have to, you know, stop me from playing, and he said that he expected nothing less.
So I don't know that he called Mike or not. But Mike normally tells the truth. So I have to call Herb and ask him.
Q. There was a lot of talk about if you lost this game, this series was out of reach. Did that create any of the pressure you put on yourself to say, look, I'd rather give it a shot now and if it goes, it goes, because if we lose this game, we may not win the series anyway?
RAJA BELL: Yeah, that's the way I felt about it. You know, we're a confident bunch, and, you know, we always feel like we have a chance, but we understood, you know, winning another series being down 1-3 was... the odds of that are slim to none. So, you know, I felt that this was my shot. So if I was going to help, then tonight was a big game for that. And going down 1-3, it wouldn't matter. I didn't think I came back one way or the other. So I took my shot at it tonight.