Sounding the Bell
When Jordan Bell was passed over by every team in the first round of the NBA draft in June — and taken by Golden State in the second round with the 38th overall pick — he wasn't disappointed.
"Not at all," the former University of Oregon forward says. "I felt like I was the first pick in the draft, getting to play with the Warriors."
"I'm a member of the (defending) NBA champions, getting to play with all the vets and future Hall of Famers on this team, with a great coaching staff," Bell says. "I think I'm in the best position I could be."
The 6-9, 225-pound rookie drew his third start of the season in Golden State's 111-104 victory over the Trail Blazers. Bell finished with 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting to go with six rebounds in 26 minutes.
Which makes the lowly Chicago Bulls seem awfully dumb for selling the draft rights to Bell to Golden State for $3.5 million.
"Every time his number is called, he comes in and plays like a vet," teammate Kevin Durant tells the media.
Bell is playing more these days, too. Heading into the Portland game, the Los Angeles native has played in 10 straight games after seeing duty mostly in garbage time through the first month of the season. Over that span, Bell averaged 5.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.
The season averages going into Monday night aren't spectacular — 4.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.0 blocked shots — but they have been accomplished in only 11.3 minutes a game.
Then there is this: Bell was shooting .742 from the field, having made 46 of his 62 shots. Can he continue that kind of shooting, on par to better Wilt Chamberlain's NBA record for accuracy at ..727 in 1972-73?
"I don't see why not," Bell says. "It's pretty easy to get layups with all these guys around me."
Easy to get dunks, too. He has had 19 in just 248 minutes, second in that category among rookies behind Philadelphia's Ben Simmons.
"Those are easy too," Bell says with a chuckle. "But I missed one just the other day."
Bell's hallmark moment came in a 133-112 rout of Orlando on Dec. 1, when he had 16 points on 8-for-10 shooting, with five rebounds and three blocks in 16 minutes. He has started two games in place of Draymond Green, who has dealt with a shoulder injury.
"I feel like I'm doing pretty well, and I'm getting better," Bell says. "I'm getting acclimated with this team and beginning to learn the NBA game."
Bells ranks third on the Warriors in points per 100 possessions (9.0), behind Zaza Pachulia (11.1) and Stephen Curry (10.5).
Bell also has the Warriors' fourth-best player efficiency rating (23.0) behind Curry, Durant and veteran reserve David West.
Count coach Steve Kerr as a fan, especially for his attitude.
"Jordan is a young rookie who just does what he's told and listens to the veterans," Kerr says.
Bell worked out for 12 clubs before the draft, but not Golden State.
But general manager Bob Myers had tracked Bell's progress at Oregon, finding the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year to be the most intriguing prospect among the strong nucleus that carried the Ducks to last year's Final Four.
Myers says he was impressed with Bell's athleticism.
"Even at the NBA level, it's pretty elite," says Myers, who during an an interview at the NBA draft combine at Chicago found Bell to be "mature" and "thoughtful."
On draft night, Bell received a phone call from one of the Warrior stalwarts — Green, who says Bell reminds him of himself.
Green, who came out of Michigan State as the 35th pick of the 2012 draft, is now a two-time NBA All-Star and the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
"He called me at my draft party," Bell says. "I made the mistake of not answering the first time. (The second time) I heard his voice and it was like, 'Uh oh.'"
Green has taken Bell under his wing and showed him the ropes of the NBA.
"I started watching Draymond my senior year in high school," Bell says. "He is a real cool person. He has helped me out in the process, on and off the court, teaching me to be a professional.
"He is an undersize big, like me — a shot-blocker who can guard ever position on the floor. He is a good player to try to emulate. I watch what he does on the floor and try to have that same energy, that intensity, that basketball IQ."
Being Green's project isn't all a bed of roses.
"Draymond has mentored and tormented (Bell) at the same time," Kerr says. "That's a good thing. That's the way it's supposed to be as a rookie."
"It's tough, but I have thick skin," Bell says. "I know how to deal with stuff. In the long run, it's going to help me out."
Does Bell believe he can be the next Draymond Green?
"I'm not going to try to be the next him," Bell says. "I'll try to be the best me. He's a great player, but I don't want to put a ceiling on it. I'm not trying to reach a certain goal. That limits myself. I'll try to go for the stars and be as special as I can be."
Bell has found Kerr reminds him "a lot" of Oregon coach Dana Altman.
"He's very relaxed," Bell says of Kerr. "He lets guys play. When I make mistakes, he understands I'm a rookie. He's not going to step on me every time I mess up."
Bell had the chutzpah to throw a lob pass to himself off the backboard and slam it home late in an early-season rout of Dallas.
"Off the court, he's very quiet," Warriors TV analyst Jim Barnett said at the time. "But on the court, he makes a lot of noise."
Says Bell: "I was going to windmill it, but (Dallas rookie Dennis Smith) kept running at me, so I put it out in front of me. I wasn't doing it to taunt the other team. I did it in college and high school and nobody said anything."
Bell got some pushback for this one, though.
"Probably from some old people who never played basketball, or played a long time ago," Bell says. "They don't understand that I got two points, whether I laid it up or dunked it. There are people in the world who don't like it, no matter what you do."
When the Warriors played the Bulls in late November — ironically, Bell's his first career start — he made hand gestures symbolizing rubbing money together before the game. Then, after completing a three-point play in the fourth quarter, he made another money gesture with his hands and said "3.5." Bell finished the game with seven points, six rebounds, six blocks, four assists and two steals in 26 minutes.
Bell is going by the philosophy, "If you've got it, flaunt it." Bell has it, particularly at the defensive end, at this point in his career.
Says Curry: "He's a freak athlete and has a sixth sense on where to be to block shots and how to protect the rim."
Bell, 22, looks back fondly at his three years at Oregon.
"It was a really good, fun time of my life," he says. "I learned a lot. Grew up a lot. Matured. Met a lot of great people. Gained a lot of relationships I'll have the rest of my life. And I learned a lot about myself as well."
Now he is renting an apartment in Oakland Hills, helping the Warriors chase another championship.
"I love it in the Bay Area," Bell says. "It's kind of like where I grew up in Southern California. Same type of weather, diversity, people. Great place to be."
Bell is tracking well to finish the season with bang.
"I'm just trying to get better and better," he says. "I don't want to set statistical goals. I'm trying to improve myself so I can help this group do what it's meant to do — win another title. Wouldn't that be something in my first year?"