Jordan Bell Is Warriors' Biggest Enigma, But They're Sticking With Him

For the last 23 months, Jordan Bell has been the Warriors' biggest enigma.

While Bell's unworldly athletic ability has provided content for highlight reels, his propensity to make head-scratching mistakes has often relegated him to the end of the Warriors' bench. 

Two months ago, Bell was suspended one game for purchasing two candles from a Memphis hotel and charging them to the room of assistant coach Mike Brown, putting his future with the team in peril. 

However, with so much uncertainty regarding their roster, the Warriors extended a $1.8 million qualifying offer to Bell Friday evening, according to a source, guaranteeing he'll have a chance to resurrect a once promising career in Golden State. 

Golden State's decision Friday seemed like a no-brainer early in Bell's career. Months after getting drafted No. 38 overall, Bell opened his rookie season by making 26 of his first 37 shots. Over a 15-game stretch in December 2017, he averaged 7.7 points and 5.3 rebounds on 65.4 percent from the field.

Then, early in a road game against the Chicago Bulls, Bell landed awkwardly on his left ankle, sidelining him for over four weeks. When he returned, the early flashes of brilliance started to flicker. Worse, with his ankle not fully healed, his effort began to lag. 

"I didn't want to be out there," Bell said at the time. "Because I knew I wasn't healthy and my ankle was killing me and I was trying to tell myself, ‘Yeah, I'm good, play through it,' but I know I couldn't."

His problems continued in the 2018 postseason. After the team beat the San Antonio Spurs in Game 3 of the Western Conference first round, Bell missed an optional workout called by Warriors coach Steve Kerr. 

"Last year he came in, a lot of rookies come in with a nice ego," Warriors forward Kevin Durant said earlier this season. "And attitude because they're coming from situations where they were the man, and I think Jordan came in here real humble and ready to serve his teammates,"

Ten months ago, Jordan Bell sat in a restaurant near Oakland's Jack London Square with his sights set on a big contract, ready to erase the inconsistency that plagued his rookie season. With DeMarcus Cousins out, an open competition commenced between Bell, Kevon Looney and Damian Jones. 

As Jones took the starting role, Bell fell to the end of the bench, relegated to slapping high fives over blocking shots, averaging just 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in 68 games. Midway through the season, he was seen arguing with Kerr during the waning moments of a win over the Lakers.

However, the defining moment of Bell's season came off the court. Less than 24 hours before a 118-103 road victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, Brown, Golden State's lead assistant, saw an unfamiliar charge on his hotel bill for a candle. 

A brief investigation uncovered Bell as the culprit, playing a prank that was usually reserved for teammates to break up the monotony of the season. A meeting between Warriors brass put the decision of discipline in Brown's hands, who then opted to suspend Bell without pay for one game. 

Those around Bell say his quality of play can be dictated by how much his coach sticks by him through mistakes, which history suggests is true. Seven minutes into his 13th career game, he blocked 7-foot center Brook Lopez at the rim, then bit on a Jordan Crawford pump fake behind the 3-point line, fouling him. Bell would finish with 7 points, six blocks and four assists in 26 minutes. 

This past May, Bell missed a breakaway dunk in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, but finished the series averaging six points, two rebounds and two assists in 13 minutes, helping the Warriors to their fifth straight NBA Finals.

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Golden State's offer Friday night comes as the team is going through its own roster peril. In less than 48 hours, the Warriors will look to convince injured stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to sign max deals. Big men Kevon Looney and DeMarcus Cousins are also free agents and the Warriors may have drafted Bell's replacement in Eric Pashell out of Villanova. 

Still, it wasn't enough to cut bait with their biggest enigma.

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