Late in a blowout game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Jordan Bell and Steve Kerr had a little blowup. This is probably just a minor blip in the season. However, given some of the nebulous explanations we’ve gotten for players like Javale McGee and Patrick McCaw leaving the team - two players that were frequent victims of Kerr’s uneven allotment of playing time.
It was a 24-point difference when Bell entered the game on Monday night with around seven minutes left in the game. Behind Klay Thompson’s ridiculous shooting night, the Golden State Warriors had put this game away long ago. Bell entered alongside a mop-up crew of Quinn Cook, Kevon Looney, Alfonzo McKinnie, and Jonas Jerebko.
It was Bell’s first chance to enter the game - he had played around four minutes in the previous game, and not at all in the one prior. He played for the final seven minutes as the team went minus five on the scoreboard - not too shabby actually considering how deep into the bench Kerr was dipping.
But something was up.
Jordan Bell getting heated with Steve Kerr pic.twitter.com/2nQqJX3IS9— gifdsports (@gifdsports) January 22, 2019
Looking at the play data, Bell had indeed jacked up a couple of quick shots - both misses. According to Anthony Slater of the Athletic, the second-year big man and Kerr were butting heads over some pretty basic basketball stuff:
Bell didn’t do anything egregious during the quick, irrelevant Lakers burst. He just jacked up a couple jumpers and wasn’t exactly delivering a full effort defensively. Kerr, sources say, wasn’t thrilled with the lackadaisical play. So he lit into him and, apparently, struck a nerve with something he said.
Bell went back at Kerr and the TNT cameras caught it and replayed it for the national audience. At one point, Bell appears to be telling Kerr, “I worked for this.” Eventually, teammates pulled Bell away and calmed him.
Part of a broader problem?
There’s no question that Bell is having a down year. Pretty much across the board, his numbers are down. Even normalized for minutes played, he’s scoring and rebounding less, his efficiency is down.
It’s hard to gauge how much of this is just random noise - dropping down a couple of points per every 100 possessions isn’t much of a problem on it’s own - but it’s hard to not wonder if the toll of uncertainty is taking a price on some of the Warriors’ fringe players.
Patrick McCaw became a click-bait darling through the first half of the season, as the marginal player provided just enough of a enigmatic intrigue to keep everyone wonder what was going on. Other than vague “bet on yourself” vacuous reasons, it never became clear exactly why McCaw forced his way out. Same thing with fan favorite, Javale McGee - who left the team for an equally paltry sum of money to play with the Los Angeles Lakers instead.
One thing both players seem to have had in common was that they were both frequent targets of Kerr’s notoriously varied rotations. Heavy minutes some night, different rotations nearly every night, and an occasional DNP - coach’s decision tossed in all mixed into a soup of discontent and uncertainty.
Moving forward, the Warriors and their young players are going to have to keep toying with the balance and sacrifice that comes with playing on this team. Jordan Bell isn’t satisfied, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But given the return of Demarcus Cousins, and Kevon Looney’s great year, Bell is falling further down the depth chart. We banked on the “youth movement” this year and it hasn’t really panned out, but there’s only so many max contracts a team can fit so this isn’t a problem that’s going away.
Around the fringes of their great players, Golden State needs to figure out a way to carve a little bit of surety for their youth. This problem isn’t new, and it’s not going away. It doesn’t feel like a problem per se, but this dynamic is something to watch as we try to cram player development alongside a super dominant super team.