At last on Saturday, Jordan Poole will be able to get back to enjoying Warriors games the way he prefers: on the court, with his teammates, rather than holed up in a hotel room taunted by the television broadcast.
After landing in health and safety protocols before Golden State’s game at Boston, that’s where he remained until rejoining the team Tuesday: 10 days inside a room at the Boston Four Seasons, turned for six games from starter into spectator. He couldn’t stand the sound of the games on TV, so he put it on mute.
“It was really weird watching it on TV. I had to turn the sound off,” Poole said Friday after practice, recounting his quarantine experience for the first time. “A lot of rest. A lot of alone time (and) down time.”
Poole was set to play Thursday in his first game since Golden State’s win at the Knicks on Dec. 14, the night Steph Curry broke the 3-point record. But after waiting more than two more weeks already, his return to the court was delayed by another two days when the game was postponed. After an 18-day hiatus, the 22-year-old guard was able Saturday against Utah to resume a breakout third season.
Poole came off the bench Saturday night, offering a preview of his anticipated role once Klay Thompson is back. The Warriors opted to go with Gary Payton II, a decision coach Steve Kerr said was based on the matchup against the top offensive team in the NBA.
Poole had plenty of time on his hands while away from the team. He tuned in to each game on his hotel room TV, turning them into live film sessions. The Warriors’ training staff left him some equipment to keep him occupied: a jump rope, resistance bands and a slide board, among them.
“Only so much you can really do in a hotel, I guess,” Poole said. “I’ve definitely never sat out six games before … You don’t do anything for a week and some days, it’s hard to stay in tip top shape.”
Before retaking the court against Utah, Poole was able to get in two workouts and a scrimmage, thanks to the postponement in Denver. He checked out of his hotel and returned home Tuesday; he was eligible to play that night but opted for an individual workout instead. By the time came Thursday evening to go all out in the scrimmage, Poole “looked really good … (but) needed a little more wind,” coach Steve Kerr said afterward.
“You could see the 10 days in a hotel room, that’ll take your conditioning away,” Kerr said.
After another light practice Friday, Poole said he was feeling back to normal.
“It was really hard to get out of shape within a week,” Poole said. “I already feel back to where I was before I left.”
A healthy Poole will be a welcome addition to the Warriors offense, which has missed its third-leading scorer and one of its top playmakers. The ever-aggressive guard has refined his shot selection and matured his play. He’s making fewer turnovers and has turned into one of the team’s best finishers at the rim.
Poole’s 17.9 points per game have, in tandem with a newly assertive Andrew Wiggins (18.8 ppg), provided the Warriors another scoring threat behind Steph Curry (27.7 ppg). Kerr will soon find himself with a wealth of riches with the return of Klay Thompson due in the coming weeks.
Poole is expected to slide into bench role to make room for Thompson in the starting five. Before Thompson reassumes the spot Poole has been keeping warm, he sung the praises of the young guard.
“The improvements he’s made in his game, he should be up for most improved,” Thompson said of Poole.