CHICAGO -- Jordan Poole and the Warriors knew things would be different when Klay Thompson returned. They prepared for it.
But it's one thing to prepare for a change, and another to experience it entirely. It's a reality Poole and the Warriors still are trying to navigate early on in Thompson's return.
"We're still trying to figure it out," Poole said after scoring 22 points in the Warriors' 138-96 win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday. "It's different. I wouldn't say it's difficult. It's a change and I think we all were expecting it. We got to figure it out. We're a really good team. We know that. Klay is a really, really good player. Just acclimating him back into the way we play. He's been out for two years. It's a little bit of a different team than he had when he left.
"We're just trying to put all the pieces together."
Poole had been quiet in the previous three games coming off the bench with Thompson in the starting lineup. But with Thompson getting a rest Friday on the second leg of a back-to-back, Poole was re-inserted into his starting two guard role and was more aggressive from the opening tip.
The third-year guard gave the Warriors' offense an immediate jumpstart, scoring eight points in the first four minutes of the game.
Having lost four of their last five including a blowout defeat in Milwaukee on Thursday, the Warriors were in desperate need of a quick start in Chicago to boost their confidence. They got it from Poole and Andrew Wiggins, who combined to score 35 of the Warriors' 78 first-half points to give Golden State a 31-point lead at the break.
Golden State Warriors
Poole had been quiet in the Warriors' previous three games with Thompson back in the starting lineup. The Michigan product scored 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting in Thompson's debut against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but they netted just 12 points (3-for-11) in Memphis and only nine points on 2-for-7 shooting in Milwaukee.
It was a different, more aggressive Poole who took the floor Friday in Chicago. The one the Warriors got used to seeing early on in the season when he was a human microwave capable of giving them 30-plus on any given night.
Thompson's minutes are expected to increase Sunday when the Warriors visit the Minnesota Timberwolves. Poole will head back to his new reality as Sixth Man. It's a role he and the Warriors know he can thrive in. He's shown it. But their biggest challenge remains figuring out how to make sure the aggressive Poole shows up more frequently when he's coming off the bench.
"They just have to stay aggressive, that's all," coach Steve Kerr said of Poole and Wiggins' adjustment to Thompson's return. "There's nothing that we are doing differently. It's a little different for Jordan coming off the bench rather than starting, but we just want both guys to be super aggressive. The ball went in for them early and they both had great nights. But some nights the ball doesn't go in and you just have to stay aggressive and keep attacking. That's the only thing we are emphasizing."
It's still early in Thompson's return. The Warriors know these next four-to-six weeks will be about rediscovering their identity and making all the pieces fit with the Splash Bros. reunited. It's a first-world NBA problem to have.
But it's the biggest question mark facing a Warriors team many believe are destined to return to the NBA Finals. A locked-in Poole and an aggressive Wiggins are keys to making those visions become reality, and the coming weeks will be all about Kerr and the Warriors finding out how to make all the pieces of their championship puzzle fit.