SAN FRANCISCO -- It was just one game ago when Steve Kerr inserted center Kevon Looney back into the starting lineup for guard Jordan Poole. The results were a 119-113 win Saturday night over the Dallas Mavericks at Chase Center.
That's how fast things in the NBA can change, though. For reasons Poole nor other Warriors were hoping for, he's back to being a starter.
On Sunday, the Warriors announced Steph Curry sustained a left leg contusion, as well as partial tears to his superior tibiofibular ligaments and interosseous membrane when he exited the Warriors' win with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. Curry will be out for an unknown amount of time, and Poole once again will have to give Golden State his best Steph impersonation.
Steve Kerr could have turned to Donte DiVincenzo with Curry sidelined to keep Poole as the Warriors' Sixth Man. But that won't be the case.
"We'll figure all that out tomorrow, but Jordan is going to start," Kerr said Sunday after Warriors practice. "We'll look at all the combinations and we have some options, but Jordan will be back in there."
Poole struggled Saturday night in his return to the second unit. He had more turnovers (four) than points (three) while going 1-for-6 from the field and 1-for-3 from deep. His rough performance came right after he started nine straight games where he averaged 21.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game while shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 39.1 percent beyond the arc. But the Warriors went 5-4 and Poole's average plus/minus was a minus-1.8.
That has been the case this season as Poole has been shuffled between starting and coming off the bench for the second straight season.
He has started 30 games this season and has averaged 24.9 points playing 33.3 minutes per game. In 23 games off the bench, Poole is averaging 14.7 points playing 26.8 minutes per game.
Part of those numbers can be attributed to the mental side of the game. When a player’s minutes are diminished, every second is heightened. As someone always playing to prove himself, Ty Jerome can understand how tricky that can be.
“He just gets a lot more minutes and a lot more opportunity to kind of play through mistakes,” Jerome, whose role also will increase with Curry out, said Sunday when asked about Poole starting again. “I think if someone's really playing 20 minutes, you're forced to be a lot more efficient. Whereas if you're playing 35 -- obviously, we still want to limit turnovers, but when Jordan's playing 35 minutes, he's able to play a lot more free and that opens up a lot of things for his game because he's super explosive, super creative.
“You kind of can't handcuff someone like that. I think when he plays 35 he kind of gets that freedom.”
The Warriors (27-26) are 14-16 when Poole starts this season and 13-10 in games he comes off the bench.
Luckily for them, and him, he has experience stepping in for an injured Curry. Poole averaged 26.0 points, 5.9 assists and 4.8 rebounds in the final 13 games of the regular season last year when Curry was out with a foot injury, and he drained 38.2 percent of his 11.1 3-point attempts per game. Once the playoffs began, Poole was even better, giving Golden State’s front office plenty of reasons to hand him a contract extension worth up to $140 million over the offseason.
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When Curry missed 11 straight games with a left shoulder injury from the middle of December to the start of January this season, Poole put up 27.9 points per game, but he also averaged more turnovers (4.8) than assists (4.1) as the Warriors went 6-5.
Between his shoulder injury and sitting the second night of a back-to-back, Curry has missed 15 games this season. Poole in Curry's absence has averaged 27.7 points, 4.2 assists and 4.9 turnovers per game.
There’s no replicating what Curry can do, which is being relayed to his heir apparent. Kerr will do everything he can to put Poole in places to succeed with Curry in street clothes, and that’s all the Warriors will ask out of Poole as well. He doesn’t have to be a superhero. What he does have to do is trust his teammates and himself equally, putting the Warriors in a position to compete and win without an all-time great.