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.”
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.