MIAMI — Golden State Warriors rookie Jordan Bell must have taken flight two dozen times in a dozen minutes during the Dubs' runaway 123-95 rout of the Miami Heat on Sunday night. It was the kind of zealous energy that originally attracted the Warriors to the Oregon prospect in the 2017 draft and the kind of energy Warriors coaches have craved in the season's early doldrums.
But these are the Warriors. Their problems aren't like everyone's problems. So the question becomes this: Does Bell bring too much energy? After the game, Bell conceded he spent too much time in the air.
"I had some times where it wasn't my rotation to try to go block the shot, but I still went and messed everything up," Bell told Bleacher Report. "That's the one thing I'm struggling with the most. In college, no matter who I was guarding, I just went. Now, I've got to learn to help the helper instead of being the first line of defense."
Bell has confirmed what the Warriors and analysts around the country already recognized: He was heisted on draft night.
He's a second-round rookie who's already wrapping his hands around a rotation spot (season-high seven straight appearances) on a team with two world titles and three Finals appearances in three seasons. He's also pacing first-year players in player efficiency rating (22.8) and ranks third among them in NBA Math's all-encompassing total points added (30.64).
The Warriors are finding they can't get enough of their newest puzzle piece. The secret? "He's a young rookie who just does what he's told and listens to the veterans," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said.
If you think this sounds nothing like the player who has sparked some of this season's biggest viral fires, you're not wrong. He's most memorable for two moments; the first was an alley-oop-to-himself off the glass in the final minutes of a Golden State blowout over the Dallas Mavericks, an amazing act of athleticism or amazingly awful sportsmanship, depending on perspective.
"I did that in college, did it in high school and nobody said anything," Bell said. "I did it here, the next day it's everywhere. ... They asked LeBron about it. I always thought that was weird that they asked somebody on a totally different team about something a rookie did. But everything we do is under a microscope, so you just have to be aware. People are always watching."
The other was a pair of jabs at the Chicago Bulls, which drafted him 38th overall this summer, only to reroute him to Golden State for $3.5 million in cash considerations. When the Bulls and Warriors met in late November, Bell drew his first NBA start, and the high-flyer let the Windy City know what it could have had.
Jordan Bell w/ the cash considerations gesture during intros https://t.co/Ajm9SC4ZKp2017-11-25 05:17:13
More than once.
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
🗣: 3.5! Jordan Bell reminds the Bulls what they're missing https://t.co/OOhCWFOlxq2017-11-25 06:05:41
Clearly, confidence isn't an issue. But he swears he's not as brash as all of the above made him look. "I'm not really a talker like that," he said. "I'm just in the background chilling."
Unless there's a dance floor nearby, Bell would rather not make his presence known away from the hardwood. He's a homebody, opting to invest his off-court time in his dog, his television and his desire to learn the piano. Loud highlights can come from a quiet guy, as his teammates can vouch.
"He's really cool, calm, collected," Patrick McCaw said.
Maybe that won't sway the actions-speak-louder-than-words camp, but Bell says his viral forays were (mostly) unplanned.
Those money rubs for the Bulls were "just a one-time thing. People kept talking about it that day, so it kind of kept feeding the fire."
Sam Hustis @SamHustis
"They don't want you JB." -Klay Thompson to Jordan Bell pregame https://t.co/jAoj8F5PLN2017-11-25 07:21:02
Counting categories don't do Bell justice. He hasn't been an active rotation member every game, and he's only topped 13 minutes twice, so his volume looks deceptively quiet: 4.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game.
And yet, his impact is obvious and substantial.
The only Warriors with wider on/off splits than Bell's 9.0 points per 100 possessions are starters Zaza Pachulia (11.1) and Stephen Curry (10.5). Bell ranks 68th overall and second among rookies with a 1.17 defensive real plus-minus, per ESPN.com. His 75.0 field-goal percentage is ahead of the highest mark ever (Wilt Chamberlain, 72.7 percent in 1972-73), albeit in limited time.
"Every time his number is called, he comes in and plays like a true vet," Kevin Durant said.
Despite what Bell's NBA-ready defense might suggest, his game still has ample room for growth.
That's perhaps why he felt "like I was the first pick in the draft" once he wound up with the Warriors. Not only has their system fit his two-way skills like a tailored suit, but they've given him the perfect blueprint to help make him the next "switch everything" defensive dynamo.
"Draymond [Green] has taken a particular interest in him and has mentored him and tormented him at the same time," Kerr said. "That's a good thing. That's the way it's supposed to be for a rookie."
Before Bell arrived in the Bay, he was using Green as a guide. Both left college as undersized bigs and slipped to the NBA draft's second round. Both have since showcased the type of two-way versatility that leads to sleepless nights for the executives who passed them up.
Green, a two-time All-Star and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, has a wealth of information to share with his protege. And luckily, Bell has the mental maturity to extract that intel through some brutally honest lessons.
"You have somebody who's a great defensive player," Bell said of Green. "He sees things. When you're under his wing, he kind of gets on you a little bit more. It's tough, but I've got thick skin. I know how to deal with stuff. I know in the long run, it's going to help me out."
All quotes obtained firsthand.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.