Warriors’ Jordan Bell Hopes His Turnaround Is Just Getting Started

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OAKLAND – His entry into the game often precipitated a quick Warriors turnover, or a late defensive rotation or a silly foul because he bit too hard on the pump fake.

There were times when he was guilty of all three within a couple minutes.

Warriors big man Jordan Bell has spent most of his second NBA season as an intriguing mess, which is why he filled his nights watching from the bench for most of the game the entire 48 minutes.

Bell needed a breakout game to remind himself and his coaches that he has something to offer. He got it Monday night in 16 outstanding minutes against the Phoenix Suns, and hopes it's the first phase of a turnaround.

"Just use it as a building block," he said Wednesday, "something to try to get a streak of games going, try to keep building off of it and stay positive off of it."

In the 132-109 win over the Suns, Bell contributed 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting, six rebounds, three blocked shots and two assists. It was the kind of performance that made observers wonder what took so long.

Bell seems to have an idea why, and it's a weakness he's willing to acknowledge.

"The biggest thing for basketball players is confidence," he said. "That could make or break you. You could be as skilled as you want. You could have two guys that are really skilled, but if one has more confidence, he's going to play better. That's what Steph [Curry] always preaches.

"I just came into the game confident in myself as a basketball player."

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Bell was decisive and his energy, so often scattered, was focused. He looked like a player who knew his role instead of one searching for it in real time.

Insofar as he had played a total of 15 minutes in the previous four games, this was coach Steve Kerr giving Bell yet another chance with the hope that this might be the game he put it together.

"It's tough to always be confident in yourself when minutes are gone," Bell said. "Obviously, you're not doing something right. Whether I got in or not, I would try to stay as confident as possible about the game."

Three times this season, Bell never left the bench. On 10 other occasions, he played seven or fewer minutes. Such spare use is telling, because the Warriors all season have been desperate for productive minutes at center – but particularly since Dec. 1, when Damian Jones went down with a likely season-ending pectoral injury.

They, frankly, needed more from Bell and he was not providing it.

Kevon Looney has since averaged more than twice as many minutes as Bell when, ideally, the two would split time fairly evenly.

Looney is much less spectacular, but much more reliable. Looney is the team's most trusted big man. Bell still has to gain that. He seems to understand that.

"That's the thing I love about Steve," Bell said. "He always lets me know how the rotation is going to be, if I'm going to play or if I might not play or whatever it is. He kind of told me what the games are going to be like coming up, with matchups and things like that, so I prepared for it."

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Coming up next are the Houston Rockets, with center Clint Capela. Because their athleticism and skills are similar, the Warriors have viewed Bell as their response to Capela. During the Western Conference Finals last May, Bell's minutes were influenced by the way the Rockets used Capela.

Bell faces another test Wednesday night. If he passes this one, the Warriors will be delighted. So might Looney, who is playing more than he imagined and is paying a physical price.

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