Warriors

Jordan Bell delivers goods as center-needy Warriors sprint past Suns

Jordan Bell delivers goods as center-needy Warriors sprint past Suns

The Warriors have been waiting and waiting and waiting for these moments, and they finally came Monday night in Phoenix.

Jordan Bell was good. No, he was better than good.

In the 38th game of a season in which he has been decidedly underwhelming, Bell was the impact player the Warriors have wanted him to be all season. He brought enough energy to fuel a rocket and turned it into production in a 132-109 win over the Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

“This is how we want Jordan to play,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters, “with great pace and energy and anticipation, being early on rotations defensively, blocking shots and running the floor.”

It’s only one game, against the lowly Suns, and it might be a tease -- there have been a few of those in Bell’s brief NBA career. But in the wake of Damian Jones sustaining a season-ending pectoral injury, the Warriors have been desperate for any help they can get at center, and Bell provided it at the highest levels.

Playing less than 16 minutes, he scored a season-high 10 points, on 5-of-5 shooting, and also grabbed six rebounds, blocked three shots and recorded two assists.

Bell’s performance was, in short, the perfect response to starting center Kevon Looney getting into early foul trouble Monday.

In assessing his game, Bell cited his Sunday practice session with DeMarcus Cousins with giving him a boost.

“Boogie gave me a lot of confidence (Sunday) in open gym, me just kicking his (backside) and getting buckets,” Bell said. “He gave me a lot of confidence. Steve saw it and saw that the confidence was up and decided to play me today.”

It was necessary after Looney picked up his third foul with 5:47 left in the first half. Kerr signaled for Bell, who then tore into the game as if possessed. In less than four minutes, he scored two points, grabbed two rebounds, blocked two shots and picked up an assist.

Bell's biggest problems this season -- turnovers, defensive lapses and lack of focus -- weren’t the least bit evident.

It was during that stretch, with Bell joining Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Quinn Cook, that the Warriors seized control, hiking a three-point lead to eight, and then to 17 at halftime.

“The bench was great,” Kerr said. “I was really happy for Jordan Bell. He’s been out of the rotation for a while, but he came in tonight and really gave us big minutes when we had early foul trouble. Jordan was great.”

The Warriors don’t need game-after-game greatness, but they’d like game-after-game consistency. That has been missing during Bell’s second NBA season.

“He got off to a slow start this year by trying to do too much,” Kerr said. “Lately, he’s settling down. He’s gotten in a few times, even though he hasn’t been in the rotation, where he’s done his job and done a really good job for a few minutes. And that’s what we’re asking.”

[RELATED: Projecting eight centers the Warriors could pursue]

The Warriors have survived at center with Looney as the starter and Draymond Green providing as much as his 6-foot-7 frame can offer. They survived, by choice, without Bell because his appearances all too often were exercises in futility.

As much as the coaching staff wanted to play him and as much as his teammates wanted to play with him, trust was an issue.

“When Coach puts him in there, he needs to produce,” Stephen Curry said. “That’s what we expect of him.

“He’s got to stay ready because he obviously can help us in terms of bringing the energy and defensive presence. He uses speed to his advantage. It’s important for him to continue to build confidence in himself and understand how he can best help us as a team.”

Bell played comfortably and confidently. He was, dare we say, smooth. It’s only one game, but it was a long stride in the right direction.

NBA rumors: Team USA considering D'Angelo Russell as World Cup replacement

NBA rumors: Team USA considering D'Angelo Russell as World Cup replacement

After playing in five straight NBA Finals, Steph Curry and Draymond Green have a ton of extra miles on their legs, and Klay Thompson is recovering from surgery on his torn left ACL.

But newcomer D'Angelo Russell doesn't have the same wear-and-tear, which is why he could find himself playing for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup later this summer.

The Athletic's Joe Vardon reported on Monday that Team USA is considering adding Russell as a replacement on the roster that will compete in China.

Russell is under consideration because a plethera of marquee stars have withdrawn from the competition in recent days to focus on the 2019-20 NBA season.

On Monday alone, Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris and No. 1 overall draft pick Zion Williamson pulled out of the event. Anthony Davis, James Harden, Bradley Beal, C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon have all withdrawn in recent days. Vardon reported Monday that Damian Lillard and Kevin Love are expected to make their decisions in the coming days.

Russell had a breakout 2018-19 season with the Brooklyn Nets and earned his first All-Star Game selection. In 81 games, the former No. 2 overall draft pick averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 assists in 30.2 minutes.

The Warriors acquired Russell earlier in July as part of the sign-and-trade deal that sent Kevin Durant to the Nets.

[RELATED: Can Poole earn a rotation spot?]

While the Warriors would probably prefer if Russell rested and got ready for his first season with the team, getting to experience the Team USA environment and playing in high-level competition could be beneficial for the 23-year-old. Getting a taste of winning can't hurt, either.

Steph Curry, Klay Thompson the No. 2 duo in NBA, Stephen A Smith says

Steph Curry, Klay Thompson the No. 2 duo in NBA, Stephen A Smith says

There are a bunch of incredible duos in the NBA. It isn't easy narrowing down the top five, let alone the order.

But on Monday morning, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith provided his list on "First Take."

5) James Harden and Russell Westbrook -- Rockets
4) Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving -- Nets
3) Kawhi Leonard and Paul George -- Clippers
2) Steph Curry and Klay Thompson -- Warriors
1) LeBron James and Anthony Davis -- Lakers

Smith offered high praise to the Splash Brothers:

"It's very simple. The greatest shooting backcourt in the history of basketball. Never before have we seen a duo that can shoot the basketball like this.

"When these two brothers return together healthy, I got news for you -- sleep on the Golden State Warriors if you want to because you don't know basketball.

"They're gonna have something to say about stuff when all is said and done."

What about Draymond Green?

"I think Steph and Draymond are more of a tandem than anyone," fellow ESPN host Max Kellerman said. "Now it's true you need a third guy to space the floor and shoot. Without Klay, it doesn't work as well.

"But you can take other guys who can shoot the three. Steph and Draymond are the pick-and-roll -- that's the whole league.

"When you reduce the Warriors down to their basic component, Dray is the No. 2 guy."

It's hard to disagree with Kellerman on this one, but it's understandable why Smith went with Klay because he was focusing on offensive firepower.

[RELATEDWhy Gottlieb is very wrong about Draymond's place in NBA]

Unfortunately, the five-time All-Star is expected to miss a large chunk of next season as he recovers from a torn left ACL.

Hello D'Angelo Russell...

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