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Line Forms at 36th & Biscayne

The number Heat president Pat Riley spat out last week caught many by surprise. Raja Bell

With the Heat perhaps in better shape heading into free agency than any team in the league, with a superstar in Dwyane Wade likely in tow, plus the flexibility to pursue as many as two more mega stars, we all know Miami will be in play for the top stars on the market.

But when Riley spoke during his season-ending news conference with the media, he took the panoramic view of the free agency snapshot.

"There are 210, 220 free agents," Riley said, clearly looking beyond the top-tier group that will include, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Amare' Stoudemire and Joe Johnson. "There's a lot out there. You can build your own team a lot of different ways."

Not only will Riley look to get the most for Micky Arison's money at the start of free agency, next season's Heat team will be defined just as much by what kind of bargain buys are had near the close of market.

And the minimum-salary prospects are already starting to form a line.

Raja Bell, a former Florida International standout and respected perimeter defensive stopper, marked his spot among those who will be lobbying Riley this summer. Bell, whose best days came during his stint as Phoenix's supposed Kobe stopper a few years ago, has bounced around in recent seasons. He last was with Golden State after he was dealt by Charlotte last season.

But Bell, who sustained a season-ending wrist injury, is healthy how and hoping to acquire a spot with the Heat. To that extent, he wants to follow in the footsteps of former FIU teammate Carlos Arroyo, who latched on with the Heat last season and finished the year as the starting point guard.

Bell took to the sports talk radio airwaves Monday, when he appeared on The Jorge Sedano Show on 790 The Ticket, and openly flirted with the Heat.

"Miami is my first choice," said Bell, an unrestricted free agent who spent the latter part of the season attending several Heat games after he was released by the Warriors. "Pat (Riley), if you can use my services, give me a call. I'm right around the corner, 36th and Biscayne, give me a call."

Quentin-standalone Bell would be almost the perfect fit in the Heat's rotation in the role of a relentless perimeter defender Riley as searched for since James Posey departed in free agency several seasons ago. Since then, there's been a stream of less-than-stellar candidates that have included Dorell Wright, Ricky Davis, Penny Hardaway, Luke Jackson, Daequan Cook, Dorell Wright, Jamario Moon, James Jones, Dorell Wright again and Quentin Richardson.

Plenty of names. Very few solid answers. Now, the Heat's roster is an empty canvass. Jobs are here to be had.

At best, Raja Bell is better and more consistent than any of those previous low-budget options. At worst, he's just as good as any in that lot. But none has the defensive swagger and reputation Bell has established in his career.

For now, Bell is simply an out-of-work free agent looking for a job, - somewhere among the middle-of-the-pack of 200-plus free agents Riley referred to the other day.

But Bell made it clear Monday. He's in one of two groups the Heat will deal with this summer. There are those Pat Riley will vehemently recruit.

And there are those like Bell, who will be recruiting Riley for a chance to latch onto something special in the MIA if things go according to Pat's summer plan.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)




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