Andre Iguodala returned to the Warriors for his 19th – and likely final – NBA season to try and help win a second straight championship, not play peacekeeper.
That became Iguodala’s reality one week into his return, and the final outcome was the Warriors falling in the second round of the playoffs, and following that, early exit by trading Jordan Poole to the Washington Wizards in a move that brought them Chris Paul, before then signing Draymond Green to a four-year contract extension. Iguodala on the latest episode of “The Old Man & the Three” found both sides to the Warriors-Poole breakup when talking with JJ Redick, Tommy Alter and Iguodala’s co-host of his podcast, Evan Turner.
The Poole conversation began with Redick giving his view of how the Warriors revolve around Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. The three have formed the perfect trio for more than a decade, but there can’t be any overflow. And that’s where Poole didn’t fit the puzzle going into last season and beyond in Redick’s eyes.
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Curry needs the space and the freedom to be the creative great that he is. Thompson is a hunter always searching for his next shot. Redick brings up Green throwing wild passes at times or over-helping on defense because “he sees something maybe you don’t see.” Those three have earned extra leeway, and the proof hangs from the rafters at Chase Center.
“I think sometimes with Jordan it was like, ‘OK, you can’t then come in the game and be doing all that stuff,” Redick said.
Iguodala’s response? “Bingo.”
Redick furthered his point saying that on most teams with how talented Poole is, his free-flowing style would be welcomed and needed. At times, in Redick’s eyes, it became a “nuisance.”
Golden State Warriors
Curry referred to part of the problem in the Warriors’ playoff loss against the Lakers being the fact Golden State couldn’t throw a changeup offensively at LA. Green agreed, as did Kerr and clearly the front office. Poole can score in an instant when he steps on the court.
He also was being compared to Curry’s style the season before, and Poole often was out of control with the ball in his hands last season.
“I think that’s why CP’s going to help them more than some folks know,” Iguodala said. “Maybe more than the team knows.”
However, that’s where Iguodala started giving his view on Poole’s side of the relationship and eventual split.
“It also was a hindrance to Jordan,” Iguodala said. “Because Jordan’s like, ‘Why can’t I go out there and be free like them?’ You know, he doesn't have four rings, he has one. He won us a game in the Finals. He did do that, Game 5.
“So he’s coming back like, ‘No, I've shown you all. Give me some freedom. And I'm second on the team in scoring. So why should I be the guy that has to dial back?’ All those emotions, he's a real human being so he's like, ‘I'm doing what I do. I've been sacrificing.’”
Poole in Game 5 of the 2022 Finals scored 14 points in 14 minutes off the bench, going 4 of 8 from the field, 3 of 6 from deep and 3 of 3 from the free-throw line in a 104-94 win against the Boston Celtics. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but they don’t tell the whole story. Curry aggravated his foot injury in Game 4, only scored 16 points in Game 5 and missed all nine of his 3-point attempts.
When Poole entered the third quarter, the Celtics had roared back from a 12-point halftime deficit. Poole came in with a little under two minutes and immediately made a 3-pointer, cutting the Celtics’ lead to one point. Poole missed his next attempt but buried a 38-foot buzzer-beater to breathe life into Dub Nation and give the Warriors a 75-74 lead going into the fourth quarter. He scored five more points in the fourth quarter and the Warriors outscored the Celtics by nine in the final frame.
Poole did average 20.4 points last season as Iguodala and Turner brought up as an argument for the young shooting guard, but that actually was third on the team to Klay Thompson (21.9 points per game), who starts over Poole in the Warriors’ backcourt.
Iguodala referred to Poole as his “brother” throughout the podcast. One of the ways Iguodala tried to protect Poole was by making sure he didn’t get the JaVale McGee Shaqtin’ A Fool treatment for Poole’s defensive lapses, shot selection or the amount of times he would wind up on the floor.
“I played with JaVale on two different teams,” Iguodala said. “I've seen his work ethic. I've seen him lock in. I've seen him dominate games. I've seen his moments where he's 7-foot-1 and his falls look so awkward, that it’s funny in the moment and then it’s magnified and then now you’re taking one moment away from his 20 minutes where he actually played good.”
For as much Iguodala wanted to protect Poole from getting the kind of treatment he saw McGee receive, he didn’t let him off the hook easily.
“Jordan Poole had defensive moments last, and this my brother, I would be like, ‘My bro, like I'm about to flip sides with these fans if you fall on purpose one more time and not play defense.’ And he's my brother. He's my brother. He knows this, I love him to death, but I will tell him, ‘Jordan, it looks like you're trying not to try.’ Do you know how much energy it takes to try to not to try? It takes less energy to try!”
Yet Iguodala still can see the other side, too.
“Then it looked like it could have been a rebel in there,” Iguodala said. “Like, ‘Nah man, I'm second on the team in scoring.’ And you know how when we grew up, when we first got in the league – if you were a bucket, you got to take off on the other end.”
More times than not, there are two sides to the story. Sometimes both are right, sometimes both are wrong and sometimes it’s split right down the middle. Iguodala saw both sides, and moving on was the final answer.