Warriors rookie Jordan Poole's defiance to slump pays off vs. Heat

Logan Murdock

MIAMI -- Warriors forward Draymond Green was in hot pursuit of rookie teammate Jordan Poole midway through the first quarter of Friday's 122-105 loss to the Heat

Armed not with a scheme or play call, Green offered a bigger message as he grabbed the 20-year old.

"Keep the energy up," he said as Poole walked into his 20th appearance of the season. 

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While Poole hasn't lacked enthusiasm through his first couple of months in the NBA, his jump shot has been nonexistent. Poole shot under 30 percent from the field through 19 games, garnering questions on his long-term viability. 

Through it all, Poole's defiance has bred steady confidence. Now, after his best performance of the season, he hopes the approach will garner different results going forward. 

Following Green's early words of wisdom Friday, Poole began to cook. Five minutes into the second quarter, he took four dribbles in transition before draining a 3-pointer over Heat wing Duncan Robinson. Twenty seconds later, he hit another 3-pointer in front of Green on the Warriors bench, prompting a Miami timeout.

With Golden State down double digits in the third, Poole came off a screen from fellow rookie Eric Paschall, jabbed right on Heat guard Goran Dragic and hit a shot beyond the arc, cutting what was once 20-point lead down to eight. By the end of the night, he scored a career-high 20 points, including five 3-pointers in the best deep-shooting night of Poole's first season in the league. 

His slump began nearly three hours before the Warriors season opener last month against the Los Angeles Clippers. Warming up with Golden State assistant Chris DeMarco and special assistant Khalil Robinson, he couldn't buy a bucket. A 37 percent 3-point shooter in college, he missed a diverse array of shots behind an extended three-point line. 

Pent up with frustration, he slammed the ball off the hardwood, forcing it so high that it nearly touched the massive midcourt video board at Chase Center. By the end of the shot night, he scored 5 points and shot 2-of-13 from the field, starting a trend he'd like to forget. 

All the while, he kept shooting, making just 22 of his first 103 3-pointers. When the shots didn't fall, the advice came from those who have been through worse, including the second-year big man Omari Spellman.

Last season with the Atlanta Hawks, Spellman battled depression. That led to stress eating and, ultimately, a weight problem that led to his trade to the Warriors. With his new teammate, he tried to make sure Poole kept perspective.

"Just trying to be positive, give positive reassurance because sometimes it could feel like it won't get better," Spellman told NBC Sports Bay Area. "So making sure I just let him know, 'You can still shoot, you're still an NBA player. You're just finding your footing."

"If anyone knows the struggles of a rookie year, he added. "It's me."

Poole's season has come under unique circumstances. The injuries of All-Stars Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and D'Angelo Russell have forced Poole into a big role, going against Warriors coach Steve Kerr's initial wishes for the first-round pick to learn by watching more established stars. Despite his shooting percentage, Poole has averaged 26.2 minutes per game as a rookie.

Less than a month ago, Poole sat in a nearly empty gym on the University of Houston's campus less than a day after a 2-for-11 performance, not giving any inkling of concern on his young season. When asked if he was anxious about his start, he quickly shot down the notion. 

"Doing that got me here," he said at the time. "Why would I change?"

Poole displayed the same defiance Friday, offering simple answers to his hot night. 

"The ball went in the hoop," when asked about his performance. 

"This is not life or death, there are really people battling life or death," he added when asked how he kept his cool amid the slump. "So, we get paid to play basketball. This is an activity, a hobby. It's fun." 

[RELATED: Steph passes through four phases before accepting injury]

But his most revealing answer came when asked about what he did differently, to which he offered the credo of his young career. 

"The same thing I been doing to get me here," Poole said. "It just worked today." 

Warriors rookie Jordan Poole's defiance to slump pays off vs. Heat originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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