Steph Curry is out with an injured left foot.
How long will pause? That’s everyone’s guess. The Warriors announced Friday that his injury will be reevaluated in two weeks.
But there’s no question which warriors will be asked to fill in the MVP’s shoes in his absence.
This is Jordan Poole’s moment.
And how ready he’s proving to be will inform so much more than this spring’s playoff seeding of the Warriors.
Poole is off to a good start. While the Warriors’ upbeat mood and four-game winning streak came to an end on Wednesday thanks to the Boston Celtics’ incredible defense and Curry’s injury, the guard found a way to make the second-half blowout contest competitive via stretches.
After Boston held the Warriors to 32 points total in the first two quarters, Golden State scored 37 points in the third quarter. Poole scored 19 of those.
When asked after the game what changed for Boston at halftime, Ime Udoka had a simple answer:
“Jordan Poole is getting hot,” said the Celtics coach. “He broke loose and is a damn good player who can get hot. Credit to our boys for weathering the storm.”
Poole is unflappable and that can become inevitable on the pitch. He’s earning a reputation as an offensive force in the league.
It’s a development Draymond Green saw coming three years ago:
“The thing that Jordan did that showed me he’s going to be okay in this league actually happened in his rookie year’s training camp. [He] came into camp and talked shit to everyone,” Green said on his podcast in December. “All these guys come to me [saying] ‘Tell him to shut up, this guy always has something to say.'”
You can imagine how Green handled that.
“I’m not going to tell him to shut him up. If you can’t handle him talking shit, that’s on you.”
“But in that moment, the way he got under other guys’ skin … I appreciated that. They combine that with the hard work that he puts in and the skills that he has and it’s a recipe for.” a man who will be successful in this league.
Poole’s success has been a key part of the Warriors’ success this season.
At 897 minutes with Poole down and Curry away, the Warriors are a net-zero team who have both offensive and defensive ratings of 108 points per 100 possessions.
That’s a marked improvement from last year’s splits, when the Warriors were a negative team within minutes with Curry Poole watching rather than playing.
The Warriors’ second session isn’t a Strength in Numbers rehash, but it’s passable.
This improvement has a lot to do with the Warriors roster improving year after year. Otto Porter versus Kelly Oubre. Jonathan Kuminga vs James Wiseman. Gary Payton II vs. Kent Bazemore.
You understand it.
But the biggest change was Poole, who took his late-season surge and applied it to an entire campaign. Not only is he a sniper with the ability to create his own shot from dribbling – one of the rarest and most important skills in the game and something the Warriors desperately needed this season – he’s also developed a maturity in his game. He’s been attacking the basket more throughout the season and that has not only gotten him more to the free throw line (a great offer for the Dubs since Poole is a 91.5 percent shooter from the foul line) but also the ground open to his teammates.
Poole has also earned a reputation as a so-so player.
His 3-point shooting has faltered all season and now he’s on the up. It was fantastic for the dubs. It’s also a bit scary. When the pullback comes, it’s impressive and Poole can stay in a doldrums for weeks. Recent history says he’s due for one soon – just when warriors need him to be at their best.
The Warriors are off until Sunday, but they went into a game behind the Grizzlies on Friday morning to become the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
The Dubs can probably say goodbye to that #2 spot.
In fact, with 12 games remaining, they have more to worry about falling out of a first-round home advantage streak overall. The dubs have one hell of a borderline vicious road trip next Tuesday featuring five games in five cities in seven days. With Jazz and Mavericks showing up in seeds #4 and 5, it’s not far-fetched to think the dubs could slip significantly.
But if Poole can be the team’s offensive alpha, as he’s already done a dozen times this season, the Warriors can weather this storm and maintain some momentum — and hopefully their franchise rotation watch — ahead of the postseason.
Poole could also make a whole lot of money.
Poole is eligible for a rookie extension next season.
There is no question that the Warriors will offer Poole a new contract. They see him as a pillar of the future of this organization, especially the future after Curry, Thompson, Green.
But there’s no question that how well Poole is playing during this difficult period will seriously inform what kind of offer Golden State will make him this summer.
That’s because it lets us know what kind of player he’s likely to be in the future.
Is Poole a super sixth man – instant insult in the shape of a Jamal Crawford or Jordan Clarkson?
Or is he a future Rand All-Star – a CJ McCollum guy? Maybe another Donovan Mitchell?
And what can you say that he can’t be Damian Lillard or Devin Booker?
Underestimating Poole feels like a foolhardy exercise. When he looked like a broke he proved he’s a solid role player in this league. Then this year he showed that he should be a regular for a good team. He could go on. He’s only 22.
But he also has three years in the league. His formative years are coming to an end. That growth spurt he had in the last calendar won’t last forever.
Poole has seen serious minutes for bad teams. He was the No. 2 offensive option for a mediocre team and an early-season world champion.
This is a new place for him. One his confidence has been craving: he’s the man on a team with expectations.
It will only be for a short distance, yes, but if that confidence can be bolstered by his play – and vice versa – in this environment, it opens up a world of opportunity for him and Golden State.
“I’ve been really tough on Jordan all season because I know he has the potential to be an All-Star. I keep telling him, don’t settle for sixth man of the year, go for an all-star,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
“For a young player, that’s amazing to hear from your head coach,” Poole said. “You want to go outside and run through a wall.”
Well, Jordan, there’s a wall here. Let’s see if you can break through it.
https://www.thereporter.com/2022/03/18/golden-state-warriors-steph-curry-injury-jordan-poole-highlgihts-video-news-report-latest-column-march-18-kurtenbach/ Jordan Poole needs to improve his game if Steph Curry is out