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Bucks match Heat offer for Charlie Bell
By COLIN FLY, AP Sports Writer
Sep 20, 2007 - 6:40:34 PM

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MILWAUKEE - When Bucks general manager Larry Harris told Mo Williams that the organization decided to keep Charlie Bell, Williams was downright giddy to see his backup again.

"He starts laughing," Harris said. "He goes, 'I can't wait to talk to Charlie and tell him to pack up all his summer stuff, you're going to Milwaukee.'"

Against Bell's wishes, the Bucks matched an offer sheet on Thursday worth $18.5 million over five years that the restricted free agent signed with the Miami Heat on Monday.

"The sun will shine here just as it does in Miami," Harris said.

Agent Mark Bartelstein said that Bell was absorbing what had happened and "getting his thoughts together."

"He's going to get himself prepared to have a great year with the Bucks and play his heart out, the only way he knows how to play," Bartelstein said.

The 6-foot-3 Bell had said he wasn't sure if he could patch his fractured relationship with Milwaukee and wanted to go to Miami, which failed earlier in the offseason to sign Williams away from the Bucks.

"Miami is pretty good, they like both of our guards," Harris said. "Fortunately for us, they're going to be in our uniform."

Bell averaged a career-high 13.5 points in a breakout season last year for the Bucks, making 64 starts for an injury-depleted team that finished third to last in the league at 28-54.

Bell did not return a message seeking comment. He told The Associated Press earlier this week that the Bucks didn't want to give him a long-term deal and didn't have the money available to re-sign him. Before the Heat moved in, Bell was mulling an offer to play in Greece.

"Restricted free agency is a very tough process," Bartelstein said. "As a player, you don't know where you're going to be, you have to go through getting an offer sheet. It's hard, very hard."

Harris, who said he hadn't spoken to Bell directly yet, didn't take Bell's comments personally.

"I don't begrudge a guy with his feelings," Harris said. "Your skin gets a little thicker year after year, but I think my job is to make this team better every year."

Harris said with Bell's contract, the Bucks are well over $60 million in payroll. They've spent more than $80 million this offseason on Williams and free agents Desmond Mason and Royal Ivey, who signed with the team on Tuesday.

Two seasons ago, Bell signed with Milwaukee after averaging a league-best 27 points for Breogan of the Spanish league.

He went undrafted after helping Michigan State win the 2000 national championship and played briefly with Phoenix and Dallas before spending three seasons in Italy.

Williams was Miami's top target at point guard this summer, but the Heat could only offer him a deal worth around $31 million. The Bucks re-signed Williams for six years and $51.5 million and now have a talented, young core signed.

"It's going to sound funny saying this, but some things that Mo Williams did with his contract, (he) made a great sacrifice for Charlie Bell. I think that says a lot without going into too much detail," Harris said. "I give Mo a lot of credit. He did some things to help us do what we needed to today."

With Bell returning to his bench role bolstered by Mason and Ivey, the Bucks rotation appears set with starters Williams, Michael Redd, Bobby Simmons, former No. 1 pick Andrew Bogut and either top draft pick Yi Jianlian or Charlie Villanueva.

"I think they spoke loudly today about how important Charlie is to their team," Bartelstein said. "They're in a position to be really good for a long time to come."

Notes:@ Harris said that Yi is expected to be at training camp on Oct. 3 and practice on Oct. 4, two days after camp opens. Yi may come earlier if Houston Rockets' star Yao Ming decides to skip workouts with Team China. It's the last chance the players have to practice together before formal preparations begin for the Olympics next summer in Beijing.


AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.

Copyright 2007 - MOP Squad Sports

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