Former Warriors guard Jordan Poole will return to Chase Center on Friday for the first time since being traded to the Washington Wizards this summer.
The move stunned Poole, the NBA world and Warriors coach Steve Kerr who, even four months later, didn't like how things unfolded for the young guard.
“I look back at that, and I hate that it happened,” Kerr told The Athletic's Anthony Slater. “I know that in my heart, that when [the Draymond Green punch] happened, we handled it the best way we thought we could handle it. But in hindsight — and hindsight is always 20/20 — we could have done better for sure.
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"I just hate the way it ended for Jordan here, because he is a huge success story. For us and for him, this was a great marriage. He helped us win a title. We helped him, you know, become a champion and a guy who signed a big contract, life-changing contract. It was all wildly successful. But I hate the way it ended.”
Poole's final year with Golden State was a strange one. After helping the Warriors win their fourth NBA title in eight years, the team signed him to a massive multiyear contract extension, going all in on building their future around the young guard. A few days before the big payday, Poole was punched by teammate and Warriors veteran forward Draymond Green and, eight months later, shipped to Washington D.C. for 38-year-old Chris Paul.
All parties involved since have admitted that the incident played a major factor in Golden State's struggles last season following an early playoff exit and with several important decisions to make. Still, the Warriors moving on from a player they seemingly were committed to for the future came as a surprise to all.
But for those in-house, it was a tough situation for everyone, as Warriors superstar Steph Curry described.
Golden State Warriors
“Unless you were in this building, you can always talk about what could’ve been punishment-wise,” Curry told Slater. “But unless you were in here, having these conversations daily and everything that we tried to keep in the house that then got out, it made everything a lot more complicated.
"We obviously will be scrutinized for whatever happens. We did the best we could with a very hard situation. Between them two, that’s whatever it’s going to be between them two.”
Kevon Looney, who was close to Poole as the two are both Milwaukee, Wis. natives, believes all the media and extra attention the incident received didn't help the matter, either.
“Situation like that, there’s only so much you can do,” Looney said to Slater. “Especially with all the coverage we get on our team, all the media and everything that’s going on, the video getting out. I feel like we handled it as best we could. You know, Draymond and JP were professional. They didn’t have no more blow-ups during the season. They might have felt awkward, but they didn’t let it affect their play on the court. They still played hard. They still played together.
“I think he got a bad rap for that year. I mean, he averaged 20 points, and he helped us get to the playoffs. You know, when Steph was down for a while, him and Klay really kept us afloat. We made a run to get out of the Play-In and won a series. So I think he gets a bad rap. It wasn’t all bad that year. It might’ve felt that way.”
Poole experienced several highs and lows during his time with the Warriors. In his breakout 2021-22 season, he averaged 18.5 points per game on 44.8 percent shooting, a season in which he firmly was in the Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year conversations.
He also averaged 17 points on 50.8 percent shooting in 27.5 minutes during the Warriors' postseason run that ultimately led to a Poole Party: Championship Edition. In the following season, Poole put up similar numbers, averaging a career-high 20.4 points on 43 percent shooting in 30 minutes per game.
“He worked his ass off, earned everything, had to learn the hard way,” Kerr said. “Threw him into the deep end right away, and he struggled. Pandemic year was hard on everybody. Then once the gym opened back up, he was in here every day. I always love when young guys learn from experience and figure out, ‘OK, this is what I have to do.’ And then he went and did it.”
For Poole, who hasn't weighed in much on his former team since joining the Wizards, he doesn't have many expectations for his return to the Bay, while Kerr and Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson certainly do.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to go back and play somewhere where I used to play,” Poole said. “So yeah, kind of just going in, and it should be cool. Spent four years there.”
“We would not have won a championship in ’22 without him,” Thompson said. “Simple as that. So I hope Dub Nation shows him the right ovation on Friday night.
“It was unfortunate what happened because he helped us raise a banner. But at the end of the day, time heals all wounds, and Dub Nation will be forever grateful for the Poole Party. I know I will.”