THERE IS A PAGE on Golden State Warriors assistant coach Chris DeMarco’s Notes app dedicated to one of the stars of the 2021-22 regular season — and one of the most important players on the team’s roster.
He’s been there since 2019. You’ll see guiding principles for the development of the 22-year-old; you’ll see plans for how Poole and DeMarco want to work together; and you will see questions.
During Poole’s rookie season in 2019-20, his main question was: How can I get on the floor?
Last season was: How to stay on the ground?
This season? How can I influence the playoffs?
So far, Poole has answered all of these questions with aplomb.
Not that it’s easy.
Poole averaged 8.8 points in 22.4 minutes on 33.3% shooting from the field, including 27.9% from beyond the 3-point line, as a rookie. Drafted as a first-round pick and goaltender expected to improve the Warriors’ offense, Poole struggled to score. And he heard about it.
“All they were saying – he takes bad shots or he can’t pass, he can’t dribble – I wasn’t worried about it,” Poole said. “Because I knew what I was capable of. It would just be a question of how I would be able to integrate my game with that of the team. It will take time, and I knew it.”
After finishing a season in which he improved his statistical output in nearly every category — and became a member of the Warriors’ new lineup of kills — those external conversations were silenced. Over six playoff games, Poole is averaging 22.7 points on 56.1 percent shooting — including 48.8 percent from beyond the arc — and playing a career-high 33 minutes per game.
Sunday’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies to open the Western Conference Semifinals was his best yet. He played a team-high 38 minutes off the bench and led the Warriors in points (31), rebounds (8) and assists (9).
“I’ve always made people swallow their words,” Poole said. “I never went to the media and said anything about anyone else. I just shut up, understood everything and let my game do the talking. That’s much better. Oh, my god, this is so good.”
TWO WEEKS AFTER COVID-19 shut down the NBA in March 2020, the league announced health and safety protocols that allowed players to return to the gym, but with only one other person. Poole immediately picked up his phone to call DeMarco.
“I just knew that if I could walk into it every day for the duration of the pandemic,” Poole said, “I knew I would get better somehow.”
Both worked at Warriors facilities. No one else was allowed to be there with them, they could only use one ball and they had to wear masks all the time.
They worked on Poole’s defence. They trained his shooting almost every day, focusing on faster release, speeding up his footwork and being able to not only make catch-and-shoot jumpers, but also those on the move. They emphasized his grips, finishing at the edge – and being able to do it with two hands – and his shot from mid-range.
“It’s going to be frustrating,” DeMarco told Poole. “There will be days when it won’t go in, but you have to be able to sharpen those tools.”
There was a stretch during that summer where Poole experienced precisely what his coach warned him would happen. Poole lost his shot – and struggled for weeks to find it. With only two of them, every rattle on the edge, every creak of his shoes reserved for training, echoing in those lonely, cavernous gymnasiums across the bay from San Francisco. One day, after missing eight shots in a row, he had had enough.
He started to send balls into the empty stands, letting an F-bomb fly with each ball.
“It was the only way to vent my frustration at the time,” Poole said. “It felt like I was so invested and wanted it so badly. I couldn’t do anything but kick the ball.
“I felt like I worked so hard. I worked hard enough not to miss eight in a row. And I don’t know, it really got to me, especially during practices. Practices , no one guards me. Why am I missing?”
He continued to work.
“It ended up being like that for nine months, something like that, it’s crazy,” Poole said. “Usually you only have two months for the offseason. It’s an extra seven months.”
Poole and DeMarco took a two-week break ahead of the 2020-21 season, and then he was back in team training camp.
The hard work paid off: Poole bumped his season numbers to 12 points on 43.2% shooting, including 35.1% from 3.
The Warriors sent Poole to the G League bubble in February 2021 so he could find a few more minutes.
Poole returned on March 4, 2021. Three weeks later, the Warriors traded Brad Wanamaker at the deadline. Kelly Oubre Jr. suffered a season-ending wrist injury the following month, giving Poole the opportunity he had been waiting for.
The way Poole played in the last 36 games of the season – averaging 14.7 points on 43.3% shooting from the field, 35.4% from deep (including a 38-point explosion) – raised new questions for him, and the Warriors, coming into the 2021-22 campaign.
“We thought about maybe getting him off the bench,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, “but when we saw what kind of camp he had, we said no, this guy needs some help. as many minutes as possible. He had a great camp, the very first exhibition game, he turned it on and it was immediately obvious: we have to get this guy on the pitch.”
Kerr informed Poole of the decision to start the campaign at the starting shooting guard about a week before the season opener.
“All the work during the pandemic,” Poole said, “I couldn’t have done anything else to put myself in a better position had the opportunity presented itself.”
SIDED WITH A left foot injury, Stephen Curry felt like he was watching himself from the bench.
During the third quarter of the March 22 game against the Orlando Magic, Poole brought the ball up. As he started to drive towards the paint, he drew four defenders, so he sent him back to Draymond Green, who stood outside the 3-point line. As soon as he got rid of the ball, Poole moved behind Green, who passed the ball back to him on the dribble pass, and Poole knocked down the 3-pointer.
Poole said he studied Curry’s game closely. Same with Thompson. DeMarco asked Poole to watch a film about his teammates, as well as other NBA players such as Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul and Damien Lillard. When it came to Curry’s game and learning from it, Poole’s main focus was how the two-time MVP moved off the ball.
Now he has Curry seeing double.
“It’s the essence of the off-the-ball movement,” Curry said. “I could tell by his reaction that he realized and recognized that those role models are things that me and Draymond do. He realized how easy it could be if he built that chemistry.”
Due to injuries to Curry and Thompson, Poole played with Green the longest of any Warriors player. When did the 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year realize Jordan Poole could be Jordan Poole?
March 10 vs. Denver Nuggets: Eleven of Poole’s 21 points that night in the fourth quarter — six of which came on two wide-open 3-pointers to seal the Warriors’ victory.
“Back against the wall, necessary to get the win, someone has to step in at that moment and get us across the finish line,” Green said. “Steph and Klay were on the floor, but who took on the role? Jordan took on the role. By doing that, what it did was it gave everyone confidence in him. I I don’t just have to go find Steph. I don’t have to find Klay. Let’s go to Jordan. It’s a very, very, very powerful tool to have.”
March 23 vs. Miami Heat: It was the day after the Warriors’ humiliating loss to the Magic. Curry was out with a sprained left foot. Green and Thompson were resting.
“I said to him, here’s the point in the game where you get what you want,” Green said of Poole. “If you decide that’s what I try to achieve every time, you’ll get a good enough look where eventually it all comes together.”
Poole finished with 30 points on 10 of 18 shooting, including seven 3s. He grabbed four rebounds and had nine assists.
“Having them take me under their wing and guide me through this process…and give me confidence, that’s great,” Poole said. “Coming in is all you want, to have their trust. So they can go in there and they don’t have to worry about covering for Jordan. Go ahead and play your game, and we’ll play with you. “
POOLE’S FIRST PLAYOFFS served as a red carpet introduction to the world of basketball. He became the 16th player in NBA history to score at least 25 points in each of his first three career playoff games, and his 86 total points are second-highest in the first three post-season contests. a player’s season, behind only 106 of Wilt Chamberlain.
His 31 points on Sunday set a new career high, and he added a record five 3s in the playoffs.
“We know the opportunity we have. It’s special,” Poole said. “You don’t want to be the player to mess this up.”
And for all these questions? He asks for more now.
“They were, ‘How does the playoffs feel?’ Like, ‘Man, how did we play on that stage?’ No, no, no. He’s past that point,” Green said.
“He’s about to say to himself, ‘What am I going to do when this stage comes? How do I fight this? If they do this, what do I do here?’ It’s a totally different space. It’s like I understand what they’re trying to do. Help me understand what I need to do.”
Finally, for Poole and the Warriors, the answers are emerging.