Warriors' tough Jordan Poole love led to sneaky good game in surprising area

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Warriors' tough love with JP led to good game in surprising area originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

From the moment Jordan Poole arrived in Golden State, he believed he belonged with the Warriors. He knew he could play alongside a dynastic core and contribute to championship runs.

The Warriors had similar grand visions of greatness for Poole. Even after a rocky start to his NBA career, the Warriors never wavered in their belief in the Michigan product, believing his next-level work ethic and commitment to greatness would eventually lead to big things.

Head coach Steve Kerr has talked a lot about the "tough love" coaching approach he has taken with Poole at times. Not only because he knows Poole can be a great scorer at the NBA level, but because he believes the young guard has all the tools to be a complete winning player.

That tough love approach paid dividends this season for the Warriors and showed itself in an under-discussed aspect of Poole's 30-point barrage in the Warriors' Game 1 win over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday at Chase Center: defense.

"We were trying to make sure he takes on all the responsibilities that come with playing winning basketball," Kerr told reporters Sunday about being hard on Poole. "One of the problems he had early in the year was just fouling too much. When he's beaten out of frustration, just reaching, not doing his job defensively. So that was the reason for the tough love.

"And I thought last night was one of his best games defensively. Everyone, rightfully so, was locked in on the 30 points, because he made some special plays. But you watch the tape and he stayed in front of his guys, didn't reach, made it hard on people to score when they did get an angle, he didn't reach, he didn't do what he's done earlier in the year. The game kept flowing and that's what we need from him."

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It's that coachability and work ethic that led to Poole's incredible Year 3 jump and was a main reason why the Warriors weren't surprised Poole dominated in his first playoff game.

"His work ethic," Klay Thompson said Saturday. "A lot of guys get to the NBA and they are content, but Jordan from Day 1 was in the gym. After practice, he would come back at night. He would shoot after a poor night of shooting. He just stuck with it.

"He went down to the G League his rookie year and got better. Just his hunger. He always had the talent. He had the ball-handling skills, he had the shot. But his work ethic is what's going to propel him to stardom."

Since he arrived in the Bay Area, Poole has been picking the brains of Thompson, Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and others about what playoff basketball was like. He craved the moment and was ready to show out on both ends when he finally got his first taste Saturday night.

Having veterans who have been through countless playoff battles believe in him helped bring out the best of the young guard in Game 1.

"There's no better feeling than having the guys behind you who have already been through the fight," Poole said. "They have been through it at the highest level. You know that if you make any mistakes, you've got those guys that will pick you up, and there's no better feeling than that.

"I'm just thankful to be out there on the court with those guys, and trying to learn as much as possible so I can continue to put our team in positions to win."

The tough love probably didn't hurt, either.

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