Stephen Curry, elite defender?

curry_stephen_warriors.jpg

Stephen Curry, elite defender?

Stephen Curry, an elite defender?

Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson didn’t back away from his statement about his young guard.

“I said it before and people thought I was crazy, he’s an elite defender,” Jackson said in his pregame news conference before Tuesday night’s win against New Orleans.

Jackson has plenty of insight on what makes Curry an “elite” defender, at least in his opinion. It’s not the fourth-year guard’s on-ball defense that Jackson is praising, but rather his ability to be part of the coach’s team defense.

The coach rattled off a number of reasons: ball pressure, getting screened but working back into the picture, not quitting on plays, being in the right place in help rotation, and being part of the fray in securing rebounds.

Curry, not ready to call himself a lockdown defender, did say he is committed to containing the ball from a help-side standpoint and he buys into the goals of team defense.

“I wouldn’t call myself a lockdown defender by any stretch of the imagination,” Curry said. “But being able to be in the right positions and stay aggressive, and stick to our game plan, that’s my responsibility as part of that five-man defense.”

Jackson said the best defenders pay attention to the game plan and strategy of the coaching staff and that’s what Curry does so well. The coach also credits Curry’s defensive abilities to healthy ankles.

“All of those things are what you need to set the tone for your team defensively,” Jackson said. “When I talk about him getting healthy and playing at an elite level, it’s not just on the offensive end. He’s setting the tone for us defensively.”

It's easier to quantify how Curry’s physical ability to plant and cut helps him offensively; his numbers -- 19.4 points and 6.4 assists per game -- serve as tangible proof.

But defensive effort is not a measurable figure, so the words and opinion of Jackson offer necessary proof.

 

WATCH: Klay Thompson stuffed by rim on 360 degree dunk in China

WATCH: Klay Thompson stuffed by rim on 360 degree dunk in China

Maybe Klay Thompson should stick to 3-point shooting and defense.

Riding the high of winning his second NBA title, Thompson is touring China and tried to execute a 360 degree dunk on an outdoor court.

It didn't go well at all.

Thompson got stuffed on the front of the rim and went crashing to the asphalt. He was sprawled out along the baseline for a few seconds before returning to his feet.

No word on the health of the rim.

Jordan Bell is not Draymond Green but parallels are impossible to miss

Jordan Bell is not Draymond Green but parallels are impossible to miss

OAKLAND -- He’s listed at 6-foot-9 but is closer to 6-7.

He grew up in a place where youngsters often must “man up” prematurely.

He is quick to blame himself, even if it’s not warranted.

He’d probably be chasing a career in football, if it weren’t for basketball.

He was annoyed when the first round of the NBA Draft unfolded without him.

And he very likely will inherit a few minutes at center for the Warriors.

Jordan Bell is not Draymond Green, but the parallels are impossible to miss -- particularly regarding an aptitude and affinity for defense. And get this: Bell’s athleticism exceeds that of Green.

The Warriors on Friday introduced Bell, the 22-year-old University Oregon product for which they arranged to pay the Bulls the maximum $3.5 million to buy his rights after Chicago drafted him in the second round, 38th overall.

That Bell’s new employers have assigned his locker, which is right next to that of Green at the team facility, suggests they expect him to be around for a while and also that they believe he is equipped to handle what sometimes will be a boisterous brand of mentorship coming from the veteran.

“Draymond will be a fun challenge for you,” president/general manager Bob Myers said, glancing over at Bell.

Bell made a name for himself in three seasons with the Ducks before jumping off TV screens across the country during the 2017 NCAA Tournament. There was the eight-block game against Kansas that sent the Ducks to the Final Four. His averages over five tournament games: 12.6 points, 13.2 rebounds, 3.2 blocks

Bell also was named the Most Outstanding Player in the Midwest Regional of the tournament.

Yet he is haunted by the two rebounds that got away. With North Carolina leading 77-76 and six seconds remaining in the tournament semifinal, Bell was twice beaten by Tar Heels players grabbing offensive rebounds off missed free throws, securing the win and sending Oregon home.

Bell blamed himself.

“If I had just boxed out . . . I had two opportunities,” he said after the game. “People can tell me whatever they want, but I lost the game for us.”

More than two months later, the kid who grew up in Long Beach -- where he had a few rough moments -- and attended athletic powerhouse Long Beach Poly High still feels the sting. And wants to feel it, hoping it never goes away.

“I definitely want to keep that with me at all times,” Bell said Friday. “I remember things from high school where I missed the block out, or I missed the shot, or some kind of thing that still motivates me to this day. It’s definitely going to stay with me, definitely going to push me to become a better basketball player.”

Based largely on scouting reports -- Myers saw him personally in the Maui Tournament -- the Warriors concluded Bell was worth the money. He fits so much of what they do, especially on defense, where he has the ability guard multiple positions, switching out on most any opponent.

Yet Myers does not wish to label Bell strictly as a “defensive guy” simply because his offense is not as developed.

“I could see games where he scores a lot of points for us,” Myers said. “At his position, because of the other guys we have out there, there’s going to be some nights where he’s got some easy opportunities.

“But mostly what we saw, what we think, is that if you're out on the basketball court and you’re playing against Jordan Bell, that’s going to be a problem.”

Which is what NBA teams have been saying about Green ever since he moved into the starting lineup in 2015. He was runner-up in the Defensive Player of the Year voting in each of the past two seasons and is considered the favorite for the award to be announced Monday night.

Green, listed at 6-7 but closer to 6-5, often plays center in the Warriors small lineup. The team believes Bell has the potential to do the same, and he sees himself as someone cut from the same cloth as the man he seeks to emulate.

“People said he was too small, they don’t know what position he plays, not athletic enough, he can’t shoot,” Bell said of Green. “People say those things about me.

“Draymond plays with a chip on his shoulder, and I just love his aggressiveness: anchoring the defense, guarding every position, switching, talking, being the heart and soul on defense.”