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Rise of Jordan Poole delights Warriors, true believers within

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Jordan Poole driving against Grizzlies

Jordan Poole always has had boosters among the Warriors, some in the locker room and some in the offices upstairs. Even when he was sitting on the end of the bench closest to the parking lot, eating DNP-CDs, he had fans in the house.

When a considerable segment of Dub Nation was complaining and blaming, lighting him up on social media, questioning the judgment of the front office for selecting him in the first round of the 2019 draft, he had believers.

Perhaps nobody got a closer and clearer view of the skepticism and acrimony thrown at JP than Juan Toscano-Anderson, the Oakland dude who saw and heard it all.

And now, with Poole punching back and changing minds, Juan T is ready to tell it.

“You know, I’m from the Bay, so I hear a lot of ... no, I’m not from the Bay; I’m from Oakland,” Toscano-Anderson said Saturday night, after Poole scored a game-high 26 points and was the only bright spot in a dusty 111-103 loss at Memphis. “I hear a lot of the good stuff and the bad stuff people say about him. I’ve been a fan since I first met the kid. He had a pro game. He’s a hooper. There are guys that are basketball players, and then there are guys that are hoopers. That kid is really good, man.

“It’s unfortunate that we live in a microwave generation and people want instant results. That’s a 20-year-old kid that came into the league. Not to s—t on anybody else and what they’re doing in their life, but that kid is in the top one percent of his profession. I don’t understand why people shade kids who come into the league and struggle when there are people who are in the league struggling.”

 

And, boy, did Poole struggle as a rookie. He turned 20 the day after the draft and it was evident that he wasn’t ready for the NBA. Drafted as a shooter, he shot 25.4 percent over his first 29 games, including 24.2 percent from distance. It was at this juncture that the Warriors, hoping he’d exhale and perform, sent him to G League Santa Cruz.

A bust, some concluded. The Warriors missed on Jacob Evans III in 2018, and now this. I’d even heard a few folks imply that Poole might be inferior to undrafted free agent Ky Bowman.

All the while, Poole was working. And working some more.

Not to prove anybody wrong but to prove he is what he always thought of himself. That he is worthy and capable of producing in the NBA.

Since returning to the NBA on March 4, after a four-week stint in the G League, where he started and played every game, averaging 33.5 minutes, Poole’s numbers are shouting affirmation. His 26-point night followed a 25-point performance on Friday, which came after a 23-point game Wednesday in Houston. In seven games this month, he is averaging 20.0 points while shooting 56.4 percent from the field and 46.5 percent from deep. He has 18 assists and two turnovers.

Suddenly, JP looks like the most breathtaking young player to hit the Golden State roster since Klay Thompson nine years ago. The noise has evolved from low murmurs of dissatisfaction to roars of approval.

“The media is what the media is,” Poole said. “It’s 2021, and it’s the world that we live in. We signed up for the job and it’s just something that comes with it. You’ve got to find ways to keep pushing and not get distracted.

“To all the good fans, and everybody who is supporting us and continuing to be positive, we need that and we’re always looking for that.”

On this 2-1 road trip, with piecemeal roster, Poole has ascended from second-unit shooting guard, expecting 18-20 minutes a game, to rotation fixture earning increase in minutes, according to coach Steve Kerr.

“He’s been fantastic every single game since he’s come back from Orlando,” Kerr said.

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Poole’s game looks a lot like that of Utah Jazz sixth man Jordan Clarkson insofar as their scoring ability can take over a game for stretches. Clarkson, by the way, is the leading contender for Sixth Man of the Year.

“That kid doesn’t really care what people think about him,” Toscano-Anderson said. “He’s way further ahead than I was when I was his age. He’s on a mission. He has his mind made up. He knows what he wants. He knows how he wants to establish himself in this league. You can’t do anything but tip your hat to that.”

 

A lot of hats are being tipped to Poole these days. As for Warriors players and executives, well, they’re exceedingly pleased, some of them to the point of tipping themselves for believing.

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