It took Jordan Bell, the No. 38 pick in June’s draft, just a week of NBA games to prove that he’s a fit for the reigning champion Golden State Warriors.
While much has been written and said about Bell the draft-night steal, it’s not the numbers or the production that have stood out. Through four games, Bell is averaging 4.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in 7.5 minutes off the bench. Bell’s on the rise, but he’s also still far from a fixture in head coach Steve Kerr’s rotation.
What makes him fit is the exuberance with which he plays the game.
That was crystallized just inside the final three minutes of the Warriors’ Monday night beating of the Dallas Mavericks.
Running on the break, Bell slowed down as he neared the hoop, lobbed the ball off the glass and thundered down a two-handed dunk.
Down on the bench, Stephen Curry rose his hands high into the air. Kevin Durant covered his mouth with his hand, his jaw dropped, a look of disbelief washed across his face.
“It was surprising,” Durant told reporters. “But it was incredible.”
It was a play that few Warriors could pull off. The list likely doesn’t include more names than Bell, Durant, Andre Iguodala, and perhaps Damian Jones and JaVale McGee.
It was also a play that epitomized the Warriors’ trademark flair. The flair that is on display when Curry turns his back before a 3-pointer goes down or when Green delivers a game-turning block, followed immediately by a torrent of shouting.
It’s also the kind of flair that makes the Warriors the most entertaining show in sports — and the most hated.
Following the final buzzer, Kerr attempted to apologize to Rick Carlisle, his counterpart with the Mavs, who was having no part of it.
“He’s a young guy,” Kerr said. “He’s having fun out there. He didn’t even realize he’d offended anybody.”
Green, the player who Bell is so frequently — if unfairly — compared to, saw no problem with the off-the-backboard fireworks.
“What was the difference between if he threw it off the backboard and dunked it as opposed to just grabbing it and dunking it?” Green said. “It’s a dunk.”
NBA players are always being evaluated, and as such, they have a duty, a personal interest, to put their best performance on tape, Green explained.
“So, no. I don’t get off into that,” Green added. “[It was a] great play. Great play. Amazing. Did you see it? It was dope. He got the and-one.”
Green did have one note for the first-year forward.
“He missed the free throw though,” Green said. “He’s got to talk about that. That’s my message for him — make the free throw.”
A quarter before Bell’s flashpoint dunk, Green produced his own polarizing — and very Warriors — moment.
After fouling Dennis Smith Jr. when the Dallas rookie attempted to dunk over him, Green immediately began jawing at the young Mav, informing him that him that he’d never be able to convert such a slam.
“Yeah, that shit ain’t happening,” Green said, recalling the exchange. “You’ve got to check my resume. This ain’t summer league, bro. You’re not just going to dunk on nobody. Better luck next time.”
Bell, who’s 22 and months removed from starring for the Oregon Ducks, is now completing his de facto graduate program, studying under Green and Iguodala — the Warriors’ resident defensive geniuses.
After the win in Dallas, Bell detailed how the pair of vets help him with learning opposing personnel, staying alert and being strategically aggressive on defense.
Asked about his dunk and the reaction, Bell was caught off guard by the stir.
“I didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” Bell said. “I’ve done it before in college and high school. So, I was just having fun with it. Obviously, basketball’s fun.”
“Basketball’s fun” should be one of the slogans of the Stephen Curry Dynasty.
Against the Mavs, Bell’s dunk demonstrated that he’s prepared to have lots of fun whenever Kerr summons him from the bench.
“The game was pretty much over,” Bell said. “He emptied the bench, so I was just trying to entertain because we are entertainers. I had seen some fans leaving and I was just trying to keep more from leaving. So, I was just trying to make the game more interesting.”