Warriors’ Jordan Poole aces mental toughness test in loss to Lakers

Poole impresses, shows mental toughness in loss to Lakers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO – Jordan Poole passed a mental-toughness test with ease Sunday night, acing it in front of his Warriors teammates and 18,064 sympathetic witnesses.

Four days after taking a wicked punch from teammate Draymond Green in practice – with the dramatic incident becoming the talk of the NBA – Poole was unmarked, composed and productive in a 124-121 preseason loss to the Lakers at sold-out Chase Center.

“There’s a reason he’s in this position, about to sign a big (contract) extension – hopefully,” coach Steve Kerr said. “The guy is tough. He’s mentally tough. He’s physically tough. He’s ultra-confident in his game, and he showed it tonight.”

Poole played 23 minutes, finishing with a team-high 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting, including 3-of-9 from distance, and a team-high six assists. He was the only Golden State starter without a turnover.

It was in the third quarter that Poole really shined, pouring in 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting and several times bringing the crowd to its feet.

The climax came with a little more than two minutes remaining in the quarter. JP wiggled past Lakers forward Matt Ryan and then lost help defender Cole Swider with a move on which he shifted the ball from his right hand to his left, behind his back, before going back to his right hand and dropping in a floater.

The crowd roared. Teammates howled. Kevon Looney, on the bench, conveyed a measure of shock. And Kevin Durant, obviously watching thousands of miles away, tweeted this: “Who thinks to do some s—t like this? #boynice”

After receiving warm applause during pregame introductions, Poole emphatically shook off any ill effects he might have endured during the most turbulent week of a career entering its fourth season.

Poole was unavailable to the media, so he let his game speak on his behalf. It provided one more example of what the Warriors were saying when they drafted him in 2019: He does not shrink from the moment.

“What’s exciting with Jordan is that he’s a shot creator, and there’s so much value to that in the league,” Kerr said. “You have to have someone who can break down the defense who can create a shot either for himself or for a teammate.

“To be able to see that from Jordan over the last couple of years, to see him blossoming, confidence growing, he’s someone we’re going to rely on for many years to come. That’s exciting. We’ve got a lot of good, young players. But Jordan is by far the most advanced. We’re going to lean on him heavily now and well into the future.”

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It was obvious before training camp that the Warriors prioritized getting Poole signed to a long-term extension. They are by now fixated on it.

With the hottest of spotlights on him, JP played as if this was just another game. He won the night. And the crowd glimpsing the Warriors in person for the first time since the NBA Finals in June, thoroughly enjoyed his show.

This was, for the Warriors, the ideal response.

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