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.”

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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.

Jordan Bell-Steve Kerr squabble a salty finish in Warriors blowout win

Jordan Bell-Steve Kerr squabble a salty finish in Warriors blowout win

LOS ANGELES – In the wake of the Warriors methodically destroying the Los Angles Lakers on Monday night, it was tough to tell who in the visitor’s locker room at Staples Center was hotter.

Klay Thompson was incredibly hot, scoring 44 points, shooting 17-of-20 from the field, 10-of-11 from beyond the arc.

Not for behind Thompson on the heat scale, though, were coach Steve Kerr and third-string center Jordan Bell.

During a timeout with 5:14 remaining, Kerr and Bell engaged in the kind of squabble rarely seen between a head coach and a player on the far end of the bench.

Both were visibly upset, with Kerr finally walking away. Veterans Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry both went over to Bell, trying to calm the Long Beach native, who was playing in front of family and friends.

Bell was on the court for the final 7:09 of a 130-111 victory. The University of Oregon product, in his second season, jacked up five of the team’s 15 shots in that span, which may or may not have been the cause of the dispute.

Bell bolted from the locker room afterward, declining to answer questions.

Kerr, visibly upset, addressed the matter but kept his comment brief and vague.

“It was a total misinterpretation of something I said,” he said, “and we cleared it up.”

Kerr surely would like to think this is the end of it, as would Bell. And perhaps it is. But there have been questions about Bell’s commitment and habits dating back to at least the middle of his rookie season.

Durant made a point last April, during a late-night flight from Indianapolis to Oakland, to sit with Bell and have a veteran-to-rookie talk. He provided Bell with pointers on professionalism and work habits. Bell listened well enough that he worked his way back into the rotation, regaining the trust of his teammates, in the postseason.

Bell has potential, because he flashed it early in his rookie season. That success, however, may have been the worst possible thing for his development. There have been good moments here and there, but he has never consistently recaptured the best of himself.

This season, he has regressed enough to fall out of the rotation.

Yet there was Durant, and then Curry coming over to talk with Bell after the clearly heated exchange with Kerr.

Durant’s message – “Stay focused on the game” – is one he has previously delivered to Bell.

“We’re all gonna go through times throughout the NBA when we want to speak our minds and vent, and we might be frustrated over some things,” Durant continued. “Coach has been so open in letting guys get that out but also challenging guys as well. It’s a healthy dialogue, and it’s just a healthy relationship between us and Coach. He lets us know what he sees out there and if you have something to say to him back, he’s not going to be afraid to go back at you.

“I think Jordan understands that, at this point, we just want to continue to keep getting better. Coach will always – especially the younger guys in the league – definitely be on them a little bit more because he expects a lot out of them. He sees the potential in him. On Jordan’s side, we just want him to keep playing. That stuff happens, so we’ll move on.”

Curry’s basically echoed those sentiments.

“Just play basketball,” he said was the point his message to Bell. “He has a job to do out there, and not to get distracted. Finish the game strong because that’s what his job is, to be ready whenever he’s out there and play hard. He handled it well and ... just moved on from whatever happened.”

The Warriors are evaluating Bell to determine if they want to offer the 2017 second-round draft pick a $1.8 million qualifying offer for next season. He’s not exactly winning his case.

There is time to make up ground, as happened last season. But given the issues that have surfaced thus far, there is legitimate reason to wonder if the Warriors are sold on Bell having a career with them.

Klay Thompson historically efficient in Warriors' blowout vs. Lakers

Klay Thompson historically efficient in Warriors' blowout vs. Lakers

Klay Thompson made each of his first 10 3-pointers in Monday's one-sided win over the Los Angeles Lakers. He also broke a record in the process. 

His 10-for-10 start from beyond the arc tied for the hottest start from the outside by any player in NBA history, 

"I've never hit 10 [3-pointers] in a row in a game," Thompson told reporters in Los Angeles. "That was hard. That's hard to do. I thought I had 11 for a second, but that's basketball."

Thompson missed his 11th (and final) 3-point attempt, but was historically efficient against his father Mychal's old team. He finished the night with 44 points on 17-of-20 shooting from the field, and ESPN Stats and Info determined that Thompson's effective field goal percentage on Monday was the highest of any player who took at least 15 shots in a game. 

In all, Thompson shot 85 percent from the field and about 91 percent from beyond the arc. Thompson had never made more than 85 percent of his shots in a game where he attempted at least two, and had never made more than 90 percent of his 3-pointers in a game where he attempted more than five. 

Before Monday, no player had shot at both of those percentages in a game where they made multiple three-pointers. 

Thompson was asked whether the opponent -- the Lakers crushed the Warriors on Christmas -- played into his performance, and he admitted it played "a little bit" of a role. Thompson also pointed to the fact he was playing in front of his family in his hometown.

Other than that, though, Thompson said there wasn't exactly one factor he could point to and describe why he was "on one."

"It just happened to be one of those nights," Thompson said. "I think that's the best percentage I ever shot, [but] it just happened to be one of those nights, man. I can't explain."