Jordan Bell. It's a name known well in the Pacific Northwest. After Thursday's performance in the Western Conference Finals, it's also a name well known in the city of Oakland, San Francisco Bay, and the entire NBA.
The second-year big man out of the University of Oregon has had his ups and downs with Golden State. He has been in and out of the rotation over the last two seasons, has had his maturity questioned, and has had to rebuild the team's confidence in him.
He's had verbal spats with teammates and coaches, and in March of this season, Bell was suspended for "conduct detrimental to the team." It was later reported that he made purchases at a team hotel and had them charged to assistant coach Mike Brown without his permission.
At the time, it almost felt like the end of the rope for Bell's career: A "here we go again" moment for the Warriors and their young forward. But instead of rolling over, Bell took it on the chin and bounced back. Despite spot minutes and DNPs, he continued to focus on his game. Not just his basketball game, but his mental game.
"I think he's evolved mostly mentally... You know, he's gotten more intelligent," teammate Draymond Green after the Warriors Game 2 victory. "I think all those things are great but more important than all of that, his mental. His professionalism. I think that's where he's grown the most and I think right now, that's paying off for him the most."
All the hard work culminated in a breakout playoff performance against the Blazers on Thursday. Bell played just 14 minutes, but his impact was large. He scored 11 points, pulled down three rebounds, and added two steals, a block, and an assist for the two-time defending champs. He stuffed the stat sheet, helping the Warriors seal the deal with a come from behind victory.
“Jordan did a really good job for us tonight with his energy," Andre Iguodala said of Bell.
[He] is one of those guys who has got that energy. He thrives off the spotlight. He enjoys being in those moments and people are watching him. He takes advantage of that.
A lot of Blazers fans know exactly what Iguodala means. Fans in Oregon have been watching Bell come up big ever since he stepped on the court for the Ducks in 2014. His junior year, he helped lead to the Ducks to an appearance in the Final Four, where he had a 13 points, 16 rebounds and a four block performance in the Ducks' loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels.
It was the biggest stage in college basketball, and Bell basked in the spotlight. Now on the biggest stage in the NBA, Bell has found a way to do it again.
"It's a good series for him. It's a good matchup. The way we're playing suits him," said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. "We need a lot of speed out there. I think the last three games, Game 6 in Houston and the first two games here, he's kind of settled down and he's been very comfortable. Very relaxed. He's not in a rush and he's playing good basketball, so he will continue to get minutes."
If Bell continues to get minutes, he could be a problem for the Blazers as the series shifts to Portland. The second-year player blocks shots, gets rebounds and does the little things the Warriors need from their bench unit to bury the Blazers.
How does Bell go about making sure he gets those minutes? According to Green, it goes back to his maturity.
"It's not like he's out there taking seven mid-range jump shots. He's just playing hard," Green said. "It's the staying ready, being in the gym nonstop, even when you're not playing for 10 games straight, staying in the gym, being there early and getting the work in.
"That's what's paying off for him now."
It's paying off in key playoff minutes, clutch playoff performances, and most of all, it's paying off with a heightened state of confidence from his teammates.
"When his number gets called, he's either going to be ready or not," Green said. "We have confidence in Jordan because we know how it's been going in the gym all year long."
More than the confidence of his teammates, getting the call has boosted Bell's confidence in himself.
When you’re playing, that’s the most confidence right there. Just experience. I was lacking on that...When the coach calls your name in Game 6 against Houston at their place, and a game where we can possibly end it there, it gives you a lot of confidence going into the (next) series.”
Do the Warriors need Bell to win their third-straight title? Probably not. Does it hurt the cause when Bell is playing with confidence and shines on the big stage? Absolutely not.
Bell has a large fan base rooting for him and it's not just rooted in Oakland. Up north in enemy territory, the Ducks fanbase is cheering hard. Not for Warriors wins, but for their former star.