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.