Jordan Bell

Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'

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AP

Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'

Warriors rookie Jordan Bell made an instant impact for the team this season. But as of late, his playing time has dwindled. In four of the Warriors' last five games, Bell has been inactive. 

“It's just the life of a rookie,” Bell said to The Athletic. “That's what Steve Kerr always tells me. It's not because I'm playing bad. Just gotta be professional about it and stay ready. It's like being a freshman all over again.”

While Bell wants to be on the court with his teammates, what he appreciates most from Steve Kerr is his communication. Kerr is always honest about when he won't play Bell and he keeps the former Oregon Duck encouraged. 

“He talks to me about it every time he sees me,” Bell said. “Lets me know I'm not going to be active. Keep doing what you're doing, you're doing good. But it still f------ sucks. You're playing well and it doesn't mean anything because you're younger. It sucks, but you got to be professional about it.”

Bell has played in 12 of the Warriors' 18 games this season. The 22-year-old is averaging 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game over 8.3 minutes per game. 

The Warriors bought the 38th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft from the Chicago Bulls and selected Bell. On Friday night, the Warriors, and perhaps Bell, play the Bulls for the first time this season. 

Rookie Jordan Bell on a slow growth program with Warriors

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AP

Rookie Jordan Bell on a slow growth program with Warriors

OAKLAND -- Even as Dub Nation falls in love with Jordan Bell, and there has been a lot to love, the rookie remains on probation with the Warriors.

If this seems unfair, well, it is. There are, however, reasons for this status.

The Warriors marvel at Bell’s “wow” snapshots while putting up staggering production in scant minutes. He does amazingly athletic things some of the team’s veterans no longer can while others know they never could.

He also does things that come natural to someone eight games into his NBA career, which is why the cultivation of Bell is somewhat similar to the way NFL Super Bowl coaches bring along a talented rookie quarterback. No matter how good he looks in part-time duty, there is no rush to push out those fresh off earning a championship. Until there is, giving Bell a few minutes here and there is most sensible plan.

“He can get a lot done in a game playing the way he plays now,” Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams said of Bell on a recent Warriors Insider Podcast.

Adams was quick to add that Bell, in time, can be so much more.

“It’s a work in progress,” Adams said. “But he’s so innately skilled -- he has a mind for the game of seeing things early, much like Draymond (Green), much like Andre (Iguodala) -- so he’s able to be effective now, as he learns on the fly.”

Learns on the fly is not what a championship team is looking for while trying to establish a rhythm early in a new season.

Coach Steve Kerr, who consistently expresses his belief in Bell while also tempering expectations, didn’t flinch when asked over the weekend if Bell might be in line for more playing time.

“He doesn’t have a regular rotational spot yet,” Kerr told reporters in Denver. “I don’t think he’s there yet.”

Bell has been playing mostly at center, where Zaza Pachulia starts before giving way to JaVale McGee and David West. Bell has played some important minutes, though, occasionally sharing the floor with the some of team’s established All-Stars.

The idea is to give Bell meaningful minutes when prudent as well as late-game action as he makes his way through his rookie season.

“Part of (this approach) is we are the defending champs and we’ve got everybody back, pretty much,” Kerr said. “JaVale deserves minutes and so does David West. JB is not ready to step in for those guys.

“I look at him as a relief pitcher, a situational, lefty-on-lefty type of thing. If I see a moment where this makes sense, we’ll put JB out there and see what he can do.”

Bell’s stats are impressive. His 123.2 offensive rating is second on the team, behind only McGee (127.2) and Stephen Curry (125.5), while his defensive rating of 93.9 is tops on the Warriors. He’s shooting 70.8 percent from the field with per-36-minutes averages of 16.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.5 blocks and 2.5 steals.

The most rookie-like number: 7.4 fouls per 36 minutes.

It’s apparent that Kerr and his staff are still experimenting with playing rotations, which can differ from game to game, based on several factors. When Bell is active, which should be most of the time, he’s likely to get playing time.

But on a veteran team with a championship pedigree, this gifted rookie is best handled with care, acknowledging his progress while providing encouragement through mistakes.

Jordan Bell reveals why he prefers being a second-round pick

Jordan Bell reveals why he prefers being a second-round pick

The 2017-18 NBA season is just two weeks old, but Jordan Bell is already showing that he probably should have been drafted higher than No. 38.

Being selected higher in the draft obviously comes with more hype, money and job security. But for the Warriors rookie, he's perfectly happy being a second-round pick and he's got a few valid reasons.

"Just because of the team I'm on, the situation I'm in. Everybody looks at the first round, if you don't get drafted in the first round, you didn't accomplish whatever your mission was," Bell said on SiriusXM NBA Radio on Tuesday. "For me personally, I signed a two-year contract, so it's easier for me to get to my second contract than people who are expecting a four-year contract who went first round."

Bell signed a two-year, $2.193 million contract with the Warriors after being drafted. He can become a restricted free agent following the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.

The 22-year-old has been active for six of the Warriors' eight games. So far, he averaging 5.3 points and 2.2 rebounds in 8.7 minutes. It's possible that on another team (perhaps the Bulls?) Bell might be playing more. It's something he has given thought to, but he's not concerned.

"Yeah, most definitely, but I wouldn't be able to learn from as many guys as I can on this team. This team, I have Draymond [Green], Steph [Curry], Klay [Thompson], [Kevin Durant], Zaza [Pachulia], David West, Andre Iguodala. I have so many vets on the team who have been in the league for a long time and been very successful in the league," Bell said. "I'd rather learn from this group of guys than any other group of guys. Obviously, playing is very important, but me being a rookie, I think the most important thing for this year is learning, so I just need to learn the game, learn the system, learn everything possible and I think I have a great group of guys to teach me that."

Bell and the Warriors are back in action Thursday night when they take on the Spurs in San Antonio. Coverage begins at 4pm PT on NBC Sports Bay Area.