Raiders weigh up move for replacement for Bell
MARJON Plymouth Raiders coach Gavin Love says he will have to sign a new starting point-guard – if Jeremy Bell's absence continues.
Bell, 29, remains at home in Arkansas, the USA for a third week for 'personal' reasons.
Mystery still surrounds precisely what they are.
Raiders have refused to reveal them so far and do not know when, or if, Bell will return.
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Coach Gavin Love says Bell's reasons concern his personal life and not basketball, ruling out a rift between the player, who joined Raiders in October 2011, and club or coach.
Love, whose team visit Glasgow Rocks in the BBL Championship on Sunday (5pm), said: "Myself and Jeremy have a great relationship and have had for a year and a half now.
"Myself, Jeremy and the club have always been on good terms. Jeremy's a good guy.
"He hasn't got an injury or health problem. He's fine."
Love added: "We're really not sure when Jeremy's going to be back. He's home for personal reasons.
"We'll let people know when we know more."
Following Sunday's contest in Scotland, Raiders have 13 days off before they play again when Manchester Giants visit the Pavilions on January 19.
That gives Love a window to recruit someone, if he chooses.
The alternative, however unpalatable, is arguably allowing Bell to become bigger than the club and Raiders' 2012/13 campaign to potentially go up in smoke without Bell running their offence.
Bell is currently Raiders' second leading scorer and leader in assists, averaging 19.4 and 3.6 per game respectively this season.
His form has also dipped since starting 2012/13 explosively, underlining how all might not be well in Bell's personal life.
Love said: "It's a possibility we could sign someone else and yes, it will come to a point when we have to.
"There has to be. But it's not something we want to do."
Love, whose team are now out of both the BBL's regular season knockout competitions, added: "We've got a two-week window coming up and it's going to be an important two weeks for us.
"It's disappointing we're not still in either the BBL Cup or Trophy, after going through to the finals last season.
"But what's really important is we come together in these two weeks off and finish this season strongly."
When it rains it pours for Raiders and Love, who today is set to discover if starting shooting-guard Michael Ojo fractured an eye socket in last Friday's 90-77 defeat at Worcester Wolves in the BBL Trophy first round.
Ojo is leading Raiders in scoring and three-point and free-throw shooting percentage this campaign.
He leads the league in the final two categories.
Together, Bell and Ojo are averaging 40.5 points per game this season.
"We think Michael has got a fractured eye socket from the Worcester game last weekend," said Love. "It's pretty serious. Michael's still in a lot of pain.
"We don't know how long Michael's going to be out. He has a hospital appointment today."
However, even worst-case scenarios for fractured eye sockets – as nasty as they sound – only rule players out for weeks rather than months.
Love added: "Michael almost certainly won't play this weekend and Jeremy won't play this weekend, so that's obviously our two top scorers and arguably our two go-to guys.
"You're taking 40 points out of our offence, which obviously hurts us.
"It's going to be really difficult for us, but at the same time we have to go there confident and change our game-plan.
"Sunday's game is going to take a lot out of us, but we can still win it."
Minus Bell and Ojo, Raiders will take a six-strong core rotation to Rocks supported by squad players Tristan Hall and Jay Marriott.
Raiders are coming off last Friday's Trophy exit at Wolves.
Raiders, reduced to a seven-man rotation without Bell in their backcourt, were still within three points, 68-65 with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Wolves decisively outscored Love's team 22-12 the rest of the way.
"We just didn't do enough offensively," said Love. "We didn't finish around the hoop and Worcester bullied us.
"It still could've gone either way, but some of our finishing was pathetic, really. We couldn't make lay-ups.
"At the same time the effort, the spirit and the running of our sets was all there and overall, I was reasonably happy.
"Our big problem was Worcester are so big. We're one of the smallest teams in the league."
Love added: "We're just looking to improve, really.
"We've run into a few brick walls this season with injuries and things. I certainly think we've been devoid of any luck.
"Hopefully, 2013 can bring us something better."
Rocks have hit some form and won three of their last four contests, including last Sunday's 95-78 home win over Cheshire Phoenix.
Shooting-guard Donald Robinson led Rocks against Phoenix with 23 points supported by 16 points from player-boss Sterling Davis and 14 from forward Gareth Murray.
Rocks initially struggled and went 1-3 after losing their marquee star, Great Britain big-man Kieron Achara, who left them in mid-November and has joined Kavala in Greece's top-flight, the third strongest league in Europe behind Spain and Russia respectively.
Achara was leading Rocks in scoring, rebounds and three-point shooting percentage, and scored a game-high 23 points in Rocks' 97-84 win at Raiders on November 17, the only other meeting between the rivals this season.
Raiders are currently 10-5 in fourth spot in the standings, two losses less than 9-7 Rocks, who are tied for fifth position with Wolves.
Raiders and Rocks finished fourth and fifth respectively in the BBL Championship last season, and it was Rocks who prevailed when the teams subsequently met in the seeded first round of the play-offs.
Raiders, hit by injuries and arguably mental fatigue, badly ran out of gas in the final month of 2011/12 after excelling through the first six months of the campaign and reaching two finals in the BBL Cup and Trophy.
In contrast, Raiders are struggling to find some consistency this season.
Love said: "We want to get back to playing really good basketball and putting on fantastic home performances, and have a strong showing in the play-offs.
"We just have to click at the right time. Last year we were great, but petered out at the end.
"This year I'm hoping it will be that in reverse."