For the second straight offseason, Steve Kerr couldn't help but praise Jordan Poole's work ethic. However, this time around, words are turning into trust, as seen in the Warriors' 121-114 season-opening win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
With Klay Thompson still rehabbing from a torn Achilles, Poole is serving as Golden State's starting shooting guard in his third season as a pro. Following a breakout preseason campaign, Poole put up 20 points in the win -- but it wasn't pretty at first.
Going into halftime, the Warriors trailed the Lakers 59-53. Poole had played just over 12 minutes and was a minus-4 in plus-minus. He scored four points while going just 2-for-8 from the field, missed all four of his 3-point attempts and even missed his only free throw. Still, Kerr continued to stick with him.
"It's still gonna be a bit of a roller coaster with Jordan," Kerr said after the win. "But the great thing is, he's earned his confidence."
Those last four words will be key to not only Kerr and Poole but the Warriors as a whole.
Poole fired a number of errant shots in the first half, paired with some bad decisions. In the past, an irate Kerr would have had a too-short-to-see leash on the shooting guard and sat him on the bench. Any kind of trust would have been thrown out the window.
But as he proved in the preseason, this is a more assertive, aggressive and confident Poole. He wants the ball in his hands and isn't second-guessing his decisions. Neither is Kerr, no matter how up and down the roller coaster might be at times. That trust proved vital in the second half, too.
Poole came out firing after halftime, scoring a team-high nine points in the third quarter. In seven and a half minutes, he went 3-for-5 from deep and grabbed two rebounds. Any issues from the first half were nothing more than in the past.
"Opening night, national TV, the only game going and everybody's watching and he made some huge shots in the second half to get us started," Kerr said. "That's what we know he can do."
The strong start in the second half didn't fizzle in the fourth quarter, too. Poole was tied for the team lead in fourth-quarter points with seven. He also dished two assists and was plus-six in a little over five minutes of play.
On the night, he finished plus-2 in plus-minus after scoring 16 of his 20 points in the second half. Kerr mentioned he's going to continue pushing Poole to play stronger defense and focus on the little things in the game. The coach believes that's what will turn the 22-year-old from a high-volume scorer to a championship player, as he showed when it mattered most.
"Just really happy for him," Kerr said. "How well he's playing, how confident he is. And as I said, he's earned it. He's worked really, really hard."
Trust takes time. It can be broken in the blink of an eye but it can't be tossed aside from a mistake or two. Kerr showed patience and his trust in Poole and the ups wound up far outweighing the downs in a Warriors win.