Jordan Poole

Christmas comes early for Warriors narratives with Poole's return

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The Warriors begin the 2023-24 NBA regular season with a special reunion for two future Hall of Famers. 

The newest Warrior, Chris Paul, won’t have to waste any time before facing the team that nearly two months ago traded him to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Bradley Beal, opening the door for Paul to then be dealt to Golden State. With the Warriors welcoming the Phoenix Suns in the season opener, Kevin Durant finally will have a chance to play the Warriors in San Francisco in front of fans. He will be cheered, there will be daps and smiles and any animosity will feel like a thing of the past after Durant decided to leave for the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2019. 

But Durant’s Chase Center reunion isn’t the most important or interesting of next season. Christmas is coming early for Warriors narratives when Jordan Poole comes home as a member of the Wizards on Dec. 22 for his one and only game in The Bay. 

Poole was supposed to be the player the Warriors could hand the keys to for the next phase of their dynasty. He was the home-grown, feel-good story of a former No. 28 overall pick who broke out at 22 years old in the Warriors’ championship season. He was surrounded by happiness only, having everyone in the organization, including Draymond Green, vow for him to be the NBA’s Most Improved Player. 

Then came what simply is now known as “The Punch.” 

Sure, Poole got paid and the Warriors seemed to be showing their loyalty to him with a four-year, $128 million contract extension worth up to $140 million. Green could have received an extension back then before hitting free agency this summer, but didn’t. He was away from the team for a short time but was never officially suspended. Green played in the first game of the season as the Warriors received their championship rings, and he had a bizarre mini-documentary on TNT about him punching Poole in training camp. 

The relationship was never repaired, which could be felt behind the scenes and seen right in front of us at times. Poole averaged more than 20 points per game for the first time in his young career and made over 200 3-pointers, also a first. Ultimately, he struggled and didn’t live up to the expectations of his new contract. Days after Mike Dunleavy Jr. said at his introductory press conference as general manager he expects Poole to wear a Warriors jersey for at least four more years, he traded him to the Wizards to make Paul a Warrior. 

Green in the opening minute of free agency agreed to a new four-year, $100 million contract to remain a Warrior. 

And the punch, as well as a strained relationship that once seemed strong and somewhat brotherly, hasn’t gone away. 

On one side, Poole immediately unfollowed Green on Instagram and deleted any history of his time with the Warriors like it never happened. When asked about Green and the trade in Las Vegas during summer league at his introductory press conference as a Wizard, Poole only gave attention to his new team and avoided talking about his old teammate. Green has gone in a different direction. 

“I don’t just hit people,” Green said on the “Pat Bev Podcast” when asked about the punch on an episode that dropped almost two weeks after Poole avoided adding to the fire. “Dialogue of course happens over time and you usually ain’t just triggered by something, like that fast, to that degree. 

“This is a team. Ain’t nobody on my team triggering me in an instant. You know, we know stuff that you don’t say amongst men. We know things that you have to stand on.” 

Draymond was asked a question and he answered. The 33-year-old also could have declined, spun it another way and moved on. His comments incited Poole’s videographer and longest friend to stick up for him on Instagram. It even sparked a response from Poole’s dad on Twitter, prompting an unexpected social media feud.

Both have given subtle jabs on Instagram, liking posts that don’t shine the best light on one another. 

C’mon, even NBA 2K24 has Poole calling for an isolation on Green and draining a three on him in its trailer. 

The Warriors will have played 27 games by the time Poole will be back in their home building. He will be greeted with a tribute video and plenty of hugs. Poole has worked out with both Steph Curry and Klay Thompson this offseason, and Thompson expressed his belief that Poole is a future All-Star on Paul’s George podcast, “Podcast P with Paul George.” All eyes will be on two players, though, and those names don’t even need to be typed right here. 

Another what-if for this franchise will be asked. What if the two locker mates only grew stronger? What if the punch never happened? What would that have meant for last season and the future of the Warriors? 

Durant’s return is only the start. Time has allowed healing, and Green and Durant even sat down two years ago together to discuss Durant’s three legendary years on the Warriors and what went wrong in the end. The wound between Green and Poole was opened a little less than a year ago but has a long way to go in being closed. 

Dec. 22 will give us all a chance to see how they really feel on the hardwood, by their actions as much as their words.

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