How Warriors' Jordan Poole is shooting way out of rookie-year slump

How Warriors' Jordan Poole is shooting way out of rookie-year slump

SAN FRANCISCO -- Jordan Poole found himself in unfamiliar territory Tuesday night. 

Eight minutes into the third quarter, the Warriors’ rookie guard received a pass from Draymond Green on the wing and drained a 3-pointer as he was fouled. In the commotion, Poole looked toward teammate Glenn Robinson and counted to four, mimicking Steph Curry's celebration. 

The play epitomized Poole's current stretch. Following his 17-point performance in Tuesday's 124-97 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, he’s shooting 43 percent from 3-point range over his last two games. He’s momentarily erasing his shooting woes, exuding confidence along the way while following familiar advice. 

"Coach Mike Brown just told me if I'm open shoot it," Poole said Tuesday. "I'm getting more opportunities, and I feel comfortable."

Poole's comfort has shown as of late. Over his last two games, he's averaging 15 points and he has made 43 percent of his 3-pointers. 

His current stretch stands in stark contrast to the beginning of his rookie season. Through the first 29 games of the season, Poole made just 25.4 percent of his shots. The Warriors sent Poole to the G League to bust out of his extended slump and the plan worked, as Poole averaged nearly 26 points in three games with the Santa Cruz Warriors.

On Tuesday, he displayed the growth in his game. Nearly 10 minutes into the first quarter, he hit calmly hit a 3-pointer at the top of the key to cut Dallas' lead to seven. A minute later, he secured a screen from Willie Cauley-Stein and hit a runner in the lane to keep the Warriors within 11 points. h

Poole scored eight of his 17 points in the first half, nailing two 3-pointers and playing as his coach has envisioned since the start of the season.

"He just looks freer," Kerr said. "He had been pressing there for a while. In the last couple of games, he looks like he did at the beginning of the season. Just playing pretty loose and free, knocking down some shots like he's enjoying himself out there, so good to see the ball go in the hole for him." 

As Poole struggled, his teammates encouraged. During Friday's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers -- in the midst of a 2-for-7 performance -- Klay Thompson inspired him from the bench.

"All of them look good," he said, "Just keep shooting."

As Thompson encouraged Poole, Curry followed suit. When asked about his shooting slump, the rookie would look towards Curry's vacant locker and boast that even the greatest shooter in the world has a slump, using the comparison as motivation.  

"A countless number of times when you have the two greatest shooters in NBA history telling you to shoot the ball, I don't think that that's normal so just being able to embrace that," Poole said. "That gives you a different sense of urgency and appreciation."

While his coach notices a change in his play, Poole doesn't see a change in his mindset. Two months ago, when asked about his poor shooting, the rookie quickly dismissed any notion of stopping. 

"Doing that got me here," he said at the time. "Why would I change?"

Following Tuesday's game, he offered similar reasoning.  

"I don't think my confidence is a thing," he said. "I feel like my confidence has been the same. it's just an opportunity being opened. I don't think confidence has been a thing. I've just continued to do the same things that I've been doing. I haven't changed anything since the beginning of the season."

[RELATED: Warriors paying steep price for a better tomorrow]

While Poole's approach hasn't changed, his results have. That was only a matter of time, according to Kerr. 

"I think is all part of his rookie season for anybody," Kerr said. "The ups the downs, and he's getting better."

NBA rumors: Warriors' Steph Curry targeting March 1 return to lineup

NBA rumors: Warriors' Steph Curry targeting March 1 return to lineup

Steph Curry reportedly is targeting a March 1 return. 

The two-time MVP has not played since breaking his left hand on Oct. 30, and The Athletic's Marcus Thompson has "been told" that Curry hopes to play on March 1 at Chase Center against the Washington Wizards, though the date is not "set in stone."

Curry told Warriors broadcasters Bob Fitzgerald and Kelenna Azubuike during Golden State's win over the Orlando Magic on Saturday that he has had "no setbacks" rehabbing his broken hand. 

"Rehab is going great, every day is tough,” Curry said Saturday. “When you're hurt, and we've all been there in some way shape or form, its a grind, every day kind of being monotonous with the little strength workouts you have to do, and you understanding that it takes time and patience to get back to 100 percent.”

[RELATED: Poole shows even more progress in Dubs' win over Magic]

Curry is traveling to road games with the Warriors, and the 30-year-old has impressed his teammates and coaches during individual shooting drills. Warriors coach Steve Kerr told the "Posted Up" podcast earlier this month that there was an "excellent chance" Curry would return in March. He'll be re-evaluated Feb. 1, and NBC Sports Bay Area's Kerith Burke wrote last week that a minutes restriction is possible as Curry "gets his wind back."

Before Curry is re-evaluated, though, he reportedly already has a timeline in mind. 

Warriors' Jordan Poole showing more progress after bad start to season

Warriors' Jordan Poole showing more progress after bad start to season

SAN FRANCISCO -- With four seconds left in the third quarter of the Warriors' 190-95 win over Magic on Saturday, Jordan Poole ran full speed to the right-wing with a bucket on his mind. 

Sprinting alongside teammate Omari Spellman, Poole received a pass from the big man, pump faked, took a dribble and drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer, pushing the Warriors lead to 11. 

Walking to the bench, Poole had both arms in the air, and was yelling "Yeahhhh" towards the crowd. Similar plays have been the norm for Poole over the last week as he gradually digs himself out a bad start to his rookie season. 

"He's starting to figure out where his spots are," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "Where his spots are and his comfort zone and how to impact a game." 

Remnants of Poole's improvement were on display early Saturday night. After Golden State went down 13-0 four and a half minutes into the contest, Poole scored 11 first-quarter points, helping Golden State take a 28-25 lead by the end of the period. Poole totaled 21 points for the game, including four 3-pointers, providing another example of his evolution. In his past three outings, Poole is averaging 16 points on 45 percent from the field. 

Such stretches are uncommon considering the start of Poole's career. During his first 29 games -- with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson out of the lineup -- he shot just 25 percent, prompting a demotion to the G League. While his shot was ineffective, it was his propensity to not give all-out effort that drew ire of the coaching staff. On his way down to Santa Cruz, Kerr gave him a player that he'd like Poole to use a blueprint for success: Pelicans guard JJ Redick. More specifically, the shooter's habit of constant movement on the defensive end, complimented by his shooting ability. 

Poole followed suit during his G League stint, averaging 26 points, 5.3 assists and 1.3 steals in three games. The performance has carried over back to the NBA, as he's making 42 percent of his 3-pointers over his last three games. But he showed his  growth six minutes into the third quarter Saturday, when he fought through two screens, moved his feet on Magic guard Evan Fournier before stripping the guard, causing a fast break on the other end, prompting praise from his coach and teammates along the way.  

"He's doing better on defense, handling the ball and making plays," Kerr said. "The game is so fast at this level. Everything happens much faster, so whether you are defending somebody or having to get over a screen or leave a rotation or if you have the ball and you are trying to make a pass, everything just happens quicker than you are used to. I think the time in Santa Cruz helped him gain more confidence and maybe the game has slowed down a bit ... He just looks more confident and comfortable."

"I think his approach has been better," teammate D'Angelo Russell added. "I think that's what's contributed to him successfully on the court. Not just worrying about his shots but his demeanor, his approach is business-like."

Poole's progression comes as the Warriors are in transition. As he works towards a long-term role, organizational cornerstones Curry and Thompson are working their way back from injuries, while Russell -- an All-Star guard -- is giving 20-year old daily lessons on how to be a pro.

[RELATED: Paschall regains form after tough stretch]

"I'm like a kid in the candy store, especially being able to have Steph, Klay and [Russell]," Poole said on Warriors Postgame Live. "I'm in awe every day. You wouldn't want to be in any other situation." 

As Poole celebrated his buzzer-beater, Curry sat on a makeshift stage, soaking in the rookie's latest step as a pro, leaving compliments along the way. 

"The way that he's fought through his early-season struggles and gone down to Santa Cruz, really able to work on his game, see the floor, get his rhythm and shoot the ball the way he's been doing the last few games," Curry said during NBC Sports Bay Area's broadcast. "That's what an NBA player is made of. It's not going to be pretty but you got to keep coming back to try and make it work."