Warriors

Kerr: Jordan Bell fighting to crack rotation, will play vs 'certain matchups'

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AP

Kerr: Jordan Bell fighting to crack rotation, will play vs 'certain matchups'

OAKLAND -- It was about this time last year, maybe a bit earlier, when Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he would absolutely be comfortable putting rookie guard Patrick McCaw, a second-round draft pick, into an NBA game.

Kerr now acknowledges he has, for the second consecutive season, a rookie second-round pick ready to contribute to the Warriors.

That would be forward/center Jordan Bell.

“Yeah, I’ll put him out there for certain matchups,” Kerr said Wednesday after practice.

“I wouldn’t say that he’s going to be in the rotation, because he’s got a lot of guys ahead of him who are very good players. But certain matchups, I’ll put him out there.”

If you’ve seen much of Bell, you can understand why. The Oregon product impressed during the Las Vegas Summer League and has made an impact in the team’s three preseason games.

In 24 minutes this preseason, Bell has totaled 19 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals. Moreover -- and this is particularly significant for a rookie with a penchant for blocking shots -- he has been whistled for only one foul.

“He’s got a pretty high defensive IQ right now, just knowing where to be and being aggressive,” Stephen Curry said of Bell. “His confidence is almost how Pat looked last year in preseason, when you knew he was a gamer. Whenever he had an opportunity to impact the game in the preseason, he was ready for that moment.”

Yet Bell is, at best, the fifth-string big man on a defending championship team. He’s behind four men who had key roles in the Warriors winning a championship last season: starting center Zaza Pachulia, death-squad center (and starting power forward) Draymond Green and backups David West and JaVale McGee.

Second-year man Damian Jones and Bell would be next in line for minutes, and Bell has been appreciably more effective.

Of the four veterans, it is Green that Bell most closely mirrors. Green is 6-foot-7 at most, Bell about 6-8. Both are skilled passers with good court awareness that improves to great on the defensive end. Each is an undersized power forward with the necessary tools to play “big” in Kerr’s uptempo system

During the Warriors’ 142-110 rout of Minnesota in Shanghai on Sunday, Bell played only seven minutes yet submitted 11 points (5-of-5 from the field, 1-of-1 from the line), adding two steals, a rebound and a block.

“The game in Shanghai was a clinic of defensive awareness, aggressiveness and decisiveness on that end of the floor that got us a couple stops,” Curry summarized. “He got a couple steals, and was in the right place at the right time on the offensive end to finish some possessions.”

Kerr pulled Bell aside after the game to lavish praise while adding a dollop of advice.

“What I told Jordan after the game was that he was great. He was fantastic and he made the most of his minutes,” Kerr said. “I said the game changed in the third quarter when Draymond decided to bring that intensity and energy that he brings for us. You might remember we made 4-5 stops in a row, and Draymond was pressuring the ball and had that look in his eye.”

That’s where Kerr explained to Bell what he wants from the rookie, stressing intensity and focus. In essence, he wants Bell to follow the example set by Green.

Which is perfectly fine with Bell. After all, it was couple years ago that Green replaced LeBron James as Bell’s favorite NBA player.

What's caused Warriors' slow start and why it should come as no surprise

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USATSI

What's caused Warriors' slow start and why it should come as no surprise

It’s much too early to get legitimately nervous, much less start tumbling into a panic.

The Warriors are going to be fine.

Eventually.

They most certainly are not yet what they will become in about two weeks, when they settle in for a four-game homestand that begins Nov. 6. That’s 10 games into the season, and it’s conceivable the Warriors might be 6-4.

After a 111-101 loss to the ever-tenacious Grizzlies on Saturday in Memphis, the Warriors are 1-2 and, by their lofty standard, looking about as lost as a stray cat in a hurricane.

“We’re obviously not ready. We knew that,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’re not ready to put together a full effort. And I’m not doing a great job of putting together combinations, finding the right motivation to get guys going, to get some joy and laughter in here.

“It’s just one of those rough patches. And, hopefully, we can climb our way out of it. I’m sure we will. It may take some time.”

It will take some time, and of that there is plenty.

Do not blame this lull entirely on China, not when there is so much more. The Warriors are coming off their third consecutive prolonged season, this one followed by the training camp disruption caused by spending eight days in Oakland, eight days in China, followed by eight days in Oakland leading up to opening night.

It’s easy to see the timing is off on an offense that relies on precision. The spacing is off on an offense that requires room to operate. The energy is lacking on a defense that lapses into ordinary without its bedrock intensity. Both body and spirit appear less than peak.

“We’ve been playing hard,” Kevin Durant told reporters at FedEx Forum, “but I think we’ve got to take it up a level.

“We’ll be fine. It’s 79 more games left. I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”

Understand, a team that won an NBA-best 67 games last season and posted a league-record 16-1 postseason doesn’t lose it because opponents load up. When the Warriors are on their game, opponents don’t matter.

For now, though, there is an individual listlessness that results in collective slumber. Stephen Curry has gambled himself in foul trouble in both losses and was booted in Memphis. Andre Iguodala missed an entire game and Draymond Green missed the fourth quarter of the first loss, a game in which the Warriors gave up a 13-point lead over the final 12 minutes.

And Durant’s 4.6 blocks per game is impressive. It also happens to be offset by his 6.3 turnovers per game.

“That’s on me,” he said. “I’m turning the ball over at a high rate right now. I’m really pissed at myself about it. I’ve just got to hold on to the ball. Just make the correct pass. I think I’m just rushing. I just need to calm down, settle down, and that would ignite the whole team. But if I turn the ball over, that’s contagious.”

The Rockets turned 17 Warriors giveaways into 21 points. The Pelicans turned 14 into 20. The Grizzlies turned 17 into 24.

Asked what has to change, Klay Thompson went to exactly the right place, saying “probably our defensive intensity from the jump.”

That’s where it starts, at least on the court. Meanwhile, there is more video work, more group texts about details and the need for more time for their bodies and minds to become one.

“We’ll be better,” Durant said. “We’re still finding a groove with each other. We’re still getting back into shape as far as playing our game, the flow, just the reads off not calling plays. We’ve got to get used to that again.”

Thompson is, however, displaying a modicum of impatience.

“We’ll come out Monday and we’ll play a great game,” he said. “I guarantee it.”

He’s probably right. The Warriors will be playing at Dallas, against a Mavericks team that is built to be devoured by the powerful.

That might be a quick fix. But it won’t be the final fix. That is weeks away.

Gameday: Curry out for payback against Conley, new-look Grizzlies

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USATSI

Gameday: Curry out for payback against Conley, new-look Grizzlies

When the Warriors set foot in FedEx Forum on Saturday, they’ll find a very different atmosphere as well as a barely recognizable team of Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grindhouse is not the same. Zach Randolph and Vince Carter have left the building. So, too, has the “Grindfather” himself, Tony Allen.

So in their only trip to Memphis this season, the Warriors will focus mostly on point guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol, the remaining core members of the team that reached the playoffs in each of the last seven seasons.

The Warriors (1-1) will be playing for the second night in a row, while the Grizzlies (1-0) have not played since their season opener Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:05 p.m.

BETTING LINE:
Warriors by 8.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Stephen Curry vs. Mike Conley: Curry has a long memory, and he will remember not only that the Warriors last season lost twice to the Grizzlies but also that Conley’s 27 points and clutch play offset Curry’s 40 points and led Memphis to an overtime win in Oakland. It won’t matter to Curry that the Warriors posted double-digit wins over the Grizzlies in the last two meetings last season. He may want to take over.

INJURY LIST:
Warriors: F Omri Casspi (L ankle sprain) has been ruled out.

Grizzlies: F JaMychal Green (L ankle sprain), G Ben McLemore (R foot surgery) and G/F Wayne Selden Jr. (R quad injury) are listed as out.

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:
The Warriors have won five of the last seven in Memphis and 10 of the last 13 meetings overall.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
BREEZE OR WHEEZE: Coach Steve Kerr has expressed some concern about the team’s conditioning level. On the second night of their first back-to-back set -- with the Warriors arriving at the hotel at 2:30 a.m. -- it could provide a glimpse of their progress. Kerr said he would consider resting one or two players. Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, both coming off injuries, would seem logical candidates.

GEORGIA VS. SPAIN: The Republic of Georgia’s Zaza Pachulia and Spain’s Marc Gasol know each other well, having spent years battling internationally and in the NBA. There will be no surprises, but Pachulia will have to avoid foul trouble to remain a part of his team’s defensive rotation against one of the league’s best big men.

HOT KLAY: Klay Thompson is off to a torrid start, shooting 11-of-18 from beyond the arc through the first two games. And now he won’t have to worry about Allen, who relished in opportunities to defend the Warriors All-Star. Memphis replaced Allen with Andrew Harrison, who is not in the Grindfather’s class as a defender.