How Former Oregon PF Jordan Bell is Handling the Difficult Transition to the NBA

Bell opens up about his childhood, his record-breaking Shuttle Run at the NBA Combine and his transition to pro basketball.

At the 2017 NBA Combine, Jordan Bell broke the Shuttle Run record with a time of 2.56 seconds. "When I finished the drill and heard the time, I knew I killed it. I knew I crushed it," he recalls.

Despite this impressive effort, the former Oregon power forward isn't putting too much stock in his performance.

"I knew that it would not make or break what people thought about me. Everybody knew I was athletic already," he says. "[Kevin Durant] couldn't do a Bench Press but he is still KD. It helps a little bit but it doesn't ultimately make or break your stock."

Jordan Bell

So far, things having been going well for Bell as he transitions to the NBA. After a workout for the Philadelphia 76ers, a team executive compared him to Dennis Rodman—a comparison we're sure Bell is comfortable with. It was also noted that he excelled at blocking shots, likely because of his time playing volleyball at Long Beach Polytechnic High School.

But Bell is not complacent. He knows the transition to the NBA is not easy, so he's doing everything he can to set himself up for success at the next level. We had a chance to catch up with Bell during one of his workouts at Proactive Sports Performance (Westlake Village, California). Here are the highlights of our conversation.

He grew up in a tough neighborhood

Bell: I grew up in Long Beach, California, on the east side of Long Beach—a very tough place to grow up and live in. There are two options there: Either jail and gang bang, or sports. Obviously, I chose the sports route. In Long Beach, you are either a Crip or an athlete, so I chose the athlete part. It was very tough. Being a good athlete in my city, a lot people looked out for me, made sure I stayed out of trouble, made sure I made the right decisions and stayed on the right path.

Long Beach is an athlete factory

There is a lot of talent coming out of Long Beach. Long Beach High School has the most NFL players ever. I think the reason is because we are so competitive in our city, and nobody wants to lose. We are all trying to win, always trying to make the big step. I think when you have people like me, like JuJu Smith, Marcedes Lewis, there are a lot of people who have been there and have kids growing up, and you have somebody to look up to, you have somebody to set the standard. I think people definitely set a standard for me growing up, and hopefully I can keep the tradition going and have young people look up to me and they can go on to be successful as well.

He plans to open a basketball gym in Long Beach

One thing I always wanted to do to give back to my city was to have a gym that kids can go to, because growing up it was always hard to find a gym. Me and my friends always would have to sneak into 24-Hour Fitness or L.A. fitness. We didn't want to play outside, obviously, because the courts were terrible and some didn't have room. I always talked about it when I was growing up. Just have a gym where kids can go in and play basketball whenever they want, and just be safe from all the outside noise.

He started working out in college

jordan bell

My body definitely developed a lot in college. I never lifted weights before. I was just a skinny, athletic, fast and tall guy. When I got in college, my freshman year, I learned a big lesson that you have to be in the weight room as much as you are on the court. The Pac 12 has some really big centers, and I had to learn the hard way. After my freshman year, I dedicated myself to the gym and gained about 20 pounds of muscle.

He's thankful for his Final Four experience

Being able to go to the Final Four and being such a big part of that was very exciting. Not a lot people get to do that.  I feel very blessed that I was able to accomplish my goal and make it to the Final Four to finish out my college career.

His diet has completely changed over the years

[When I was] growing up, my diet was candy and whatever. I had to find what was cheap. Now I have to adapt to trying to eat healthy.  I have to understand that whatever I put into my body is going to affect how I play and how I perform.  

I always ate cookies and milk at night, every single night since sixth grade. It's been hard trying to give that up. I have been eating Nutri-Grain Bars now at night, so it's been very tough.

The transition to pro basketball hasn't been easy

The process of getting ready for the Combine, and getting ready for this whole process, it's been very tough. Obviously, the game is very fast here, and it's more physical, so you have to get ready for that. Conditioning—really been pushing that. And offensively, just expanding the game, because it's very different from college.

He's training with Paul George, who is helping him with the transition

Paul George being here and working out with us . . . I definitely appreciate him giving back to the younger group of the CAA organization. Obviously, there are a lot of things we have to try to learn. With him teaching us right now before we get there, I think it definitely gives us an advantage before we make it to the next level.

I think the biggest transition I have had with my game is change of pace. Paul has been telling us that you can't play the game just like college, where everybody just tries to go fast. In the NBA, you have to keep changing up because everybody is fast, everybody is athletic, quick and strong. So, you have to try and beat people in different ways. I am trying to keep up with that and the physicality it.

He's preparing his body to handle the physicality of the NBA

jordan bell

The people at Proactive have been helping get my body ready for the NBA. There's a lot of big guys out there, so you have to be ready for the physicality. They're really helping me with leg endurance and finishing through contact when going for layups and dunks.

I don't want to add too much weight, because I like how I feel and how my body moves, but I definitely want to keep getting stronger and stronger. But if I gain weight and still am able to move the same, I am fine with that.

He plans to spend draft day with his family and friends

When I think of draft night, I imagine being surrounded by family and friends, people that have been with me since I started playing basketball, through all the ups and downs. It's going to be a small group. I'll probably just have it at home or a little restaurant or something like that with the people that have been there the whole time.