By Corie Muhammad
In a 1963 speech titled “Strength to Love” Dr. Martin Luther JR stated “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and controversy.” This quote comes to mind when I think of Troy Bell’s story. Most of us have never been to the “mountain top” of success in what ever field we work in. However, Troy Bell was a first round pick in the 2003 draft, the same draft that included Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, among others. Not a bad class. Troy has experienced the highs of fulfilling a life long dream, and the low of bitter disappointment. The following interview is his story-So far.
Slam: Troy to set the stage for your NBA experience tells us what was your senior year like at Boston College basketball wise?
Troy Bell: We split with Uconn for the regular season Big East title, but we didn’t make it to the tournament, that was a big disappointment. I was also player of the year again in the Big East. I then traveled a lot getting ready for the draft. I worked out for like 17 teams. I then went to the pre-draft camp in Chicago. There I came out the top athlete in the pre-draft camp. I had a 40 something inch vertical, I repped 20 times on the bench. You can only play 20 minutes in the pre-draft camp and I ended up averaging 18 points, 4 assist, 3 rebounds, 90% from the free throw line, and I shoot 60% from the 3pt line. Man I was rolling. Life was good I was having fun.
Slam: When did you end up getting drafted?
Troy Bell: I was the 16th pick in the first round. I was drafted by Boston and traded along with Dhantey Jones to Memphis. After that you go directly to the team that drafted you. So I flew in and met Jerry West, and did a press conference, photo shoot that sort of thing.
Slam: Who did you expect to draft you? Was it a surprise that Memphis got you?
Troy Bell: The day of the draft my agent told me I was going to go 18 to New Orleans, or that the Timber wolves would take me at #26 if I was still available. But looking back at it, going to the Celtics would have been great because they still had Antwan Walker and Paul Pierce. Everything was being run through them. I could have just stayed out on the perimeter and shot the ball, as well as everything else that I do. But at the time Boston needed a shooter, and I would have fed of off them.
Slam: But you got to Memphis?
Troy Bell: Yeah, I ended up going to Memphis and Hubie Brown in known for not playing rookies, so I was in a tough situation. However, I learned a lot.
Slam: How many games did you end up playing for Hubie and the Grizzlies your rookie year?
Troy Bell: I think I played in like 6 or 7 games out of a total of like 82 regular season games, plus the playoffs. Man, it was a lot of games not to play. But that’s just how Hubie does it.
Slam: Is it NBA “Etiquette” to talk to your coach about playing time?
Troy Bell: Not really. Well if you have that kind of relationship. In the NBA and pro sports period, if you don’t play and they (team or coach) don’t know they need you, you really don’t matter. The team is like we are paying you to be here so do your job. And if your job right now is not to play then do that. Not just in Basketball, but in life it is about where you go and the opportunity you get. For instance, when you go to college and if you get a degree in something specific like accounting or teaching then you can go out and do just that. However, if you get a degree in something else then it’s no telling what you might end up doing. All the degree says is that you are qualified to do something. Also, it says that you need some on the job training. Well basketball is the same way; you need on the job training.
Slam: Elaborate more on how this related your NBA rookie season.
Troy: Well my rookie year was like a year off in the sense that I did not have a role. I got very little on the job training. This was the first time that I did not have a role. They want you to workout and practice which is understood. However, when you are not working out for a game or a specific purpose or playing time that is difficult. It is a major adjustment from going from a situation in college where you play a major role, to going to a situation where you have little or no role at all. This is tough especially if you are competitive and have pride.
Slam: How did not having much on the job training impact your second NBA season?
Troy Bell: Well that summer of 2004, I stayed in Memphis working out getting ready for summer league. I hurt my knee in practice while making a routine cut for an outlet pass. I tore some cartilage in my knee, and this happens 4 days before the first summer league starts. I had surgery a few days later and everything was fine. However, I ended up banging knees in practice with another player during training camp. So my knee swells, and I end up losing most of the muscle right above my knee on the inside. There was nothing wrong with me knee, but the muscle was not growing back properly. I was still able to play but not for long periods of time. So they let me go. Then I ended up playing for one of the top teams in Europe, Real Madrid.
Slam: I thought that NBA first round draft picks had guaranteed contracts. How could they release you?
Troy Bell: Yeah that is true; I had a 3 year deal as far as money was concerned. That’s what most people don’t understand. The money is secure but not your spot on a team. Memphis had 17 guys on the roster all with guaranteed money so no matter whom they cut; they would still have to pay them the guaranteed money. So they ended up cutting me and Bo Outlaw. They paid him like 6million dollars and he got another million when he went to Phoenix.
Slam: Man I wish I could get cut and get that type of money.
Troy Bell: (Laughs)
Slam: So you got paid regardless?
Troy Bell: Yeah I got my whole 3 year deal. But at that time all I was thinking was how embarrassing I felt to get cut. I had never been cut from anything in my life. So it was more of a psychological factor dealing with the fact that I got released more so than the money. Don’t get me wrong the money is cool, but I got pride and a high standard for myself.
Slam: So what did you do next?
Troy Bell: I stayed around Memphis for few days. But my reason for being there had expired. So, man I just packed up my clothes and left. I didn’t even clean my house and you know that is not even my style. But, I felt I needed to get home, so I left and went back to Minneapolis. I then went to Real Madrid in Spain. While in Spain my muscle was still not up to par. Being In Spain was a good experience but at the same time my mind was not totally into it.
Slam: Why were you not into it?
Troy Bell: You know when you are set on being in the NBA and that’s where you thin you are suppose to be and you are not, that makes it hard. It’s kind of like being in a new relationship, but you are still bitter over the old relationship that did not end the way you wanted it to end. That is how I felt while playing in Spain, it was difficult for me to enjoy and appreciate that moment.
Slam: It seems that since you were a first round pick by Memphis for which they traded for you, that the Memphis organization should have made a better commitment to you even with the injury?
Troy Bell: Well T.J. Ford hurt his back real bad that year and missed an entire season, so I thought about that. However, T.J. Ford had the opportunity to play his rookie season, therefore his value to the team was perceived to be greater due to the fact that he had a chance to play and contribute his first year, where as with me, I was not given the chance to play my rookie year. So probably when it came time to access my value to Memphis I was not seen as very valuable. Plus they went to the playoffs that season with me on the bench so I am sure that helped them conclude that they did not need me.
Slam: How did that affect you being shopped to other teams?
Troy Bell: It had a tremendous impact. First of all, no team had much to go by because I only played in 6 or 7 games my rookie year. Secondly, I had an injured muscle from my knee and teams did not want to put money behind a person with an injury and little playing experience. I can understand that from a team’s perspective. However, I did workout for Denver and New Jersey that went well. But I knew the injury was a question in their minds and I can’t be mad at them for that.
Slam: How long were you in Spain?
Troy Bell: For about 2 months. Then I came back home and I was just resting and rehabbing because I knew I needed to strengthen the muscle. I ended up going to Chicago to train with Tim Grover, Michael Jordan’s trainer. I was there for a long time working out twice a day.
Slam: Did you get a chance to meet Michael Jordan?
Troy Bell: Yeah, in fact Jordan and I played one on one.
Slam: Wow. How did that come about? Who won?
Troy Bell: Let me tell you the story. We were in the weight room and Mike wanted to play two on two. He had his guy but I did not know the guy they wee going to put on my team. So I am not going to play with somebody I don’t at least not against Mike Jordan, when it’s a for real game, feel me?
Slam: Yeah I don’t blame you
Troy Bell: Yeah, Mike doesn’t like to loose so he probably was going to give me the scrub (Laughs). So I told Mike, “Ill play you one on one right now.” Rev or somebody stopped the music and was like what did you say young fella? So I repeated that Ill play you one on one right now. Mike was like “it’s not like when you was a little kid, you can’t turn your face on this ass whooping.” So I was like Don’t get me wrong Mike you the best player ever, but you can’t guard me. Everybody in the weight room went crazy. Then Mike said, “why don’t you go down stairs young fella and warm up, Ill be down in a minute” I was like you go warm up, I’m young I don’t need to warm up.
Slam: Did you play?
Troy Bell: Yeah, the only person that thought I would win was my guy Rev. He was training Kobe Last year. Anybody that lives in Chicago and is involved with basketball knows about Malcolm Rev and Tim Grover. They work out a lot of NBA players from Chicago and guys before the pre-draft camp. So I play Mike and beat him like 11 to 5. So he was like “run it back”. So I’m up again like 10 to 4. Then Mike starts using vet moves on me and his footwork, and he ends up winning the second game. It was an honor to play Michael Jordan one on one. I was happy that he even knew my name, or wanted to play me.
Slam: Did you get a chance to workout with him?
Troy Bell: Yeah, Mike is a cool dude. I ended up working out with him a couple of times after that. He showed me a lot concerning footwork and defense. He also demonstrated for me how to be a pro and to always stay competitive. Again it was an honor and blessing.
Slam: So what happen after that?
Troy Bell: I stayed in Chicago all summer. I then went to camp with the Hornets .I was still trying to get my injury together. I got released from there. I was thankful for the opportunity however. So, I was like I got to get this muscle injury together. I then rehabbed extra hard. I went out to Aspen, Colorado to see this specialist. He told me that my knee was fine, but that the muscle around the knee was still weak. So he gave me some exercises and I went home and was cleared to play.
Slam: What year was this?
Troy Bell: This was like the 05-06 season. I then started boxing in March. I was training with this O.G. cat named Bull back in Minneapolis.
Slam: Why did you start boxing?
Troy Bell: At first it was just a way for me to rehab and stay in shape. But I started to like it, and I started sparring and they threw me in the ring with a pro fighter. I only sparred two rounds with him but I was holding my own. So I was feeling very confident after this. I then sparred against this boxer named “show stopper”, I mean this guy is really good. But, I did my thing again and I had only been boxing about a month. So I was really feeling myself. I ended up winning my first two fights that summer.
Slam: Do you still box?
Troy Bell: I ended up scheduling two more fights, but I signed with the Albuquerque D-league team coached by Michael Cooper.
Slam: How was the D-League?
Troy Bell: It was cool. I was grateful for the opportunity to play again. I had to adjust to playing again and going to practices. Just seeing how I would do after being out for almost a year. It was a real interesting experience playing for Michael Cooper, but he knows his stuff. After that I went to Austin and played for Coach Dennis Johnson, may he rest in peace.
Slam: Yeah that was shock. How was it playing for him?
Troy Bell: He was a real cool and good man. I ended up finishing the season with Austin, I played well.
Slam: So what happen after the season?
Troy Bell: I then went to Reno, last summer to get ready for NBA summer league. However I ended up going to Italy to workout for this team ANGELICO BIELLA. Man they worked me out like a dog, twice a day, plus it was 100 degrees everyday. But it was all good.
Slam: How did that go?
Troy Bell: It went well; I got a good feel from the coaching staff. They seemed like they were straight shooters, and that’s all that you can ask for, plus I ended up liking it. BJ Elder with whom I played with in the D-League ended coming over there as well so I was like I’m there. So that is who I signed with for the 2007-2008 season, I like it.
Slam: What adjustments if any did you have to make playing in Europe?
Troy Bell: The biggest adjustment that I had to make was to the rule difference. In the NBA you can’t stand in the lane on defense longer than 3 seconds. Over here, they can stand in the lane as long as they want. So that may impact your decision to drive to the rack or not because you don’t want to get charged with and offensive foul. You have to remember, just because it is similar to college and High School rules, the players over here are grown ass men, and are crafty pros. They know how to play and “cheat” No one can stay in front of me, but I have to be wiser in terms of the type of play making decisions that I make. Plus there are Americans on every team. Sometimes up to 8 if some of the American players have dual citizenship with that team’s country. Also, they usually match the Americans up against other Americans so it is not as easy at sounds.
Slam: Did you choose to go to Italy this year as opposed to an NBA vet camp or an NBA team because it was a better opportunity?
Troy Bell: I would not mind getting with an NBA team and that is still a goal of mine. However, I needed something concrete this year. And unless you are going into an NBA camp with a guaranteed deal, it can be tough. Because if you got guys in camp who are guaranteed, and even if you out play him in most cases it would be cheaper for the team to keep the guaranteed guy. You just might be a body in some teams training camp. So I am over here in Italy to win, that’s what I am all about. When I accomplish my personal and team goals that will open up other doors. But I would not mind coming back over here, eve if I play in the NBA and after I finish with that, come over here and play. It has been a real good experience thus far.
Slam: Any last words?
Troy Bell: I want to thank SLAM magazine for allowing me to tell my story. I am a big fan of the magazine.