The Warriors were nursing a five-point lead late in their Las Vegas Summer League debut when the Clippers clanked a jumper from the outside. From the bench, Jordan Bell eyed the shot as it caromed off the rim and in a blink the imposing physique of a Warriors big man skied for the rebound and swallowed it up in the crowded paint.
“Yeah DJ!” Bell roared from the sideline as he gave Damian Jones a standing ovation.
Steve Kerr has always preached joy when it comes to the way his teams play. The one guy who he won’t have to worry about that with is Bell.
From the second the buzzer sounded in Game 4 of the NBA Finals until now in Vegas, Bell has been having a ball. But if his play is any indication, that’s when he’s at his best.
Summer League head coach Willie Green agrees:
“Oh, absolutely. We want all our guys going out there and play having fun, play with joy, play free. That’s our motto and we continue to stick by it.”
So far this summer, he’s tried another off the backboard dunk, he’s talked trash to his opponents and had a playful exchange with Donovan Mitchell while he was watching a game. He’s even having fun off the court, laughing it up on “The Starters” and “The Warriors Outsiders.”
"I thought it was gonna fall"
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) July 10, 2018
And while doing all that, he’s also leading the Warriors Summer League roster in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
In his two games so far in Vegas, he’s stuffed the stat sheet with 4.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.5 blocks.
That’s exactly why he’s in Vegas, to improve every aspect of his ever burgeoning game.
Green said that kind of line is not a surprise anymore and is what’s expected of him now:
“That’s what we need from him, every game. We need that consistency because he’s going to play a huge part for us this year.”
He’s shown an expanded range with his shot, which the Warriors would welcome. Last season he shot just 12 shots outside of 16-feet and looked hesitant on anything outside of a dunk.
Bell joked that he’s always had that type of range:
“I’ve been doing that you just didn’t know it. Naw I’m just playing. I’ve been working on it though, I’ve been working on shooting during the season, obviously during the playoffs wasn’t a time to show it. So Summer League I think is the best time to show off the midrange.”
At one point, he even stepped out to 3-point range and hit a pull up jumper.
Something one of his teammates — and acting shooting coach — has helped him with:
“During the season, me and KD were in the gym, he was showing me things, how to get open, and changing little things in my shot. It’s something I’m continuing to work on.”
He’s also been a Summer League version of Draymond Green, initiating the offense and even doing some grab-and-go and pushing the fast break off of rebounds.
It’s a totally expanded role than what we saw from him during his rookie year.
But he’s not ready to say he’ll show it off during the regular season:
“I’ve been given the greenlight in Summer League, I don’t know about the regular season yet, I’m going to have to talk to Kerr about that. [Laughs]”
The Warriors resident “too good for Summer League” player, Bell has continued to be energetic about playing.
That’s something he’s working on too, though. After last season, when he drew the ire of the coaching staff for not going full-bore into every workout, he’s changed his mindset — and it’s showing on the court.
But now, the last piece of the puzzle is consistency, something he wasn’t able to have last season.
After being a big part of the rotation early, he got injured and his season never really got back on track. That is until the playoffs when he was a key contributor in the Western Conference and NBA Finals.
Bell averaged 13.9 minutes during those two series and was a plus-40 over the 10 games. That’s the role the Warriors envision for him next season.
And he’s the reason they were at ease with signing DeMarcus Cousins despite the fact that he might miss the first four months of the season.
But whatever role Bell has next year, you can bet he’ll be having fun doing it.