Jordan Poole slowly digesting becoming Warriors' Sixth Man

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Poole slowly digesting change to Warriors' Sixth Man role originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO – Even after his most encouraging performance as Sixth Man, Jordan Poole wasn’t quite ready to acknowledge, much less express accept, that this is his new role with the Warriors.

After a 17-point, three-assist showing as Sixth Man in a 130-92 demolition of the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, Poole was asked if such a solid performance helps him “get more comfortable” in the role. He paused for a few seconds ... and then responded in the general.

“Really big win tonight,” he said. “We were able just to swing the ball and get a lot of good looks. We got a lot of good looks early. I don’t know. We had it going. We had it clicking. We had a lot of good shots.  A lot of people go going early and we were able to, I guess, get a big win.”

It’s a fair enough summary of the team’s performance but sheds no light on JP’s thoughts about his biggest contribution in the role he was given two weeks ago when Klay Thompson made his first appearance since 2019.

Poole spent the first half of the season starting at shooting guard, alongside Stephen Curry, as Thompson concluded his rehab. JP generally thrived and was the team’s No. 3 scorer. There was never a question, though, that he would have to step aside for the five-time All-Star.

Upon moving into the Sixth Man role, Poole suddenly became less dynamic and his production nosedived. He scored 14 points in his first game, then 12, then nine. In his last two games, before Tuesday, he scored five points in each.

They need him to be better, and on this night he was.

“If he can attack the way he did tonight and be aggressive while coming off the bench, it gives us more punch with that second unit when Steph is off the floor,” coach Steve Kerr said. “If we can mix him in with Steph and Klay as well, like we did, it gives us another lineup combination that’s a totally different look from what teams have been used to seeing.

“It could be a great role for him, but he has to grow comfortable in it. And tonight was a good sign that he’ll be able to do that."

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Poole was more assertive, meeting the request of teammates and coaches. He was efficient, shooting 6-of-10 from the field, including 2-of-6 from distance. He seemed to have transferred his starter mentality to meet the purpose of the team’s Sixth Man.

Asked if changing roles required a change in approach, Poole tried to explain the difference between starting and playing off the bench.

“When I come in, I’ve got to feel the rhythm a little bit, the pace of the game,” he said. “Sometimes, when I come in, we’ll be up, we’ll be on a scoring run. Or we’ll be on a drought. So, just trying to figure out where you can fit in. If we have the ball moving. If we don’t have the ball moving.

“Try to still be aggressive, take the shots if I’m open, take the looks that I get. And just still trying to play my game.”

Poole’s game is still being developed. He has the tools – good touch, great first step – to be a prolific scorer in any role. His work ethic is widely praised by coaches, executives and teammates.

“I love what he did tonight,” Thompson said. “But when you see a player care that much, and you see him care about his performance, that’s what really impresses me. I’m not surprised by his growth because he’s an extremely hard worker. He’s only going to get better. The kid’s only 22. He’s going to be really good for a really long time.”

That’s the message the Warriors are trying to get across to the third-year combo guard. JP at this point of his career is trying to reach heights Klay already has experienced.

As long as the Curry-Thompson duo, generally recognized as the best shooting backcourt in NBA history, are healthy and productive, the Warriors will be championship contenders and they will be the starters.

Poole will be the Sixth Man. Even if he never utters the phrase.

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