LOS ANGELES – With each jumper that splashed through the net, Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole displayed the kind of giddiness usually shown in training camp.
Poole completed a shooting workout with Klay Thompson. He then shot on his own. Following a short water break, Poole then worked on his free throws.
The reason for Poole’s enthusiasm during an otherwise routine practice earlier this week? Beyond his love for the game, Poole appeared rejuvenated after spending the NBA All-Star break doing, well … nothing.
“I was just chilling,” Poole said. “I didn’t go too far. I really just rested.”
The 23-year-old Poole believed he needed that recharge after playing in all of the Warriors’ 58 games with an expanded role. The Warriors (29-29) face the Los Angeles Lakers (27-32) on Thursday (10 ET, TNT) with Poole averaging career-highs in points (20.9), assists (4.5) and minutes per game (30.7) in his fourth season. He has played as both a starter and reserve to account for Stephen Curry missing a combined 20 games with overlapping left shoulder and left leg injuries.
Nonetheless, Poole said he has embraced “all the obstacles and challenges” that have contributed to the Warriors ranking ninth in the Western Conference. He talked candidly with NBA.com about his adjustment to playing without Curry, how he can grow as a defender and handling the increased pressure after agreeing to a contract extension.
Editor’s note: The following 1-on-1 conversation has been condensed and edited.
What did the All-Star break do for you?
It’s always good to get away and take a break, especially with coming off a long season last year and having part of preseason in Japan. I finally had some time to rest. It was definitely needed. A lot of guys in the league take this as a chance to take a break with their body before giving it one last push, whether it’s for a playoff run, competing for the championship or ending the season strong. This should be good for anybody who has used it wisely.
What have you learned from the Warriors’ stars on how to take care of your body?
It’s about the small things – hydration, recovery and having a routine. You can’t take any shortcuts. Especially with the season being so long, you want to make sure your body is in the best shape for down the road.
What’s your typical routine with that?
That’s the question [laughs]. I do my resting, recovery and icing. I get stretched out. I unwind and decompress. Whether it’s small things or large things, I try to take different things from different people. I also try to read books.
Where do you evaluate where the Warriors are heading given their place in the standings, the various injuries and growing pains?
We’re at .500 right now and have to find ways to put it together. I have the utmost confidence in this team that we’ll make a push. We have lot of guys that have the right experience and were on the team last year. We know how crucial and important these last few games are. I think we’ll be fine because our experience will go a long way.
Find you a friend like Jordan Poole 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/h0qESs5PyB
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) February 21, 2023
How about your season?
It’s cool. I try to do anything I can to try to help the team win. Whenever we’re winning games, I feel like I’m playing better. I’m able to be versatile and play in different situations. I start sometimes. Or I come off the bench and play the 1 or 2. Playing with different lineups adds to my versatility. I’m a big believer in trying to find ways to get better every day, whether it’s watching film, working on something in the gym or asking questions. I always think I’ll find ways to get better, whether I’m playing good or bad.
What have been your different approaches to playing with and without Steph?
He’s one of the greatest basketball players to play our game. So, coverages and game plans are different when he’s on the court. It’s awesome to be out there with him and see what it’s like to play off of him, learn and ask him questions. But it’s also a really fun challenge to play without him and try to lead a team at the highest level. I embrace everything. All the obstacles and challenges are really exciting and fun. I just enjoy playing the game and being able to make an impact on the game and try to win.
Steve Kerr observed that you’ve gotten more defensive attention this season because of your play last season and because of Steph’s absence with his injuries. How have you adjusted to that?
I’ve loved it, honestly. To get the second team or the (first) team’s best defender and be the main focus of the game plan and coverage is awesome. It’s stuff that you dream about as a kid. I get to ask Steph what he sees and what he went through (earlier in his career). He’s one of the greatest players of all time. He has seen as many coverages, if not more, than some of the greatest players. It’s awesome to blend his perspective into my own personal style of play. It helps me learn and find ways to grow.
What has Steph’s feedback been on this?
Nothing I can think of.
Well, I saw you said you have asked him a lot of questions about his routine. What has he shared?
I would love to give you all of these answers, but these are high-level FBI questions. [laughs] I can’t give the secrets away. These aren’t even my secrets. These are Steph’s secrets. [laughs]
Steve said, “When you’re locked in, you can be really good defensively.” But he added there are times that you lose “focus.” What’s your perspective on that?
I’m continuing to learn and continuing to grow. It’s a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge. I’m trying to put everyone in position to be successful, grow and ask questions. I embrace the challenge with trying to take on the team’s best player, while still carrying the offensive load. I try to build my stamina and workload. This all comes through trial and error. I think that’s something a lot of people forget. Everyone can’t be sheep. You have to find ways to stay locked in, block out the outside noise and grow. There are always things you can do to get better. So, I’ll continue to work on that.
What goes into that?
Just work, curiosity and motivation. I want to know more. I also have the love for the game. You have to love the game and want to put in the time. If you don’t love it, then it becomes stressful. But it’s nothing for me to want to come in and shoot, play one-on-one or watch basketball.
In light of your recent extension, there’s a school of thought that can ease the burden of knowing there is more long-term security. But there is also another school of thought that it creates more pressure to live up to that bigger investment. What has been your experience this season?
I read that (New York Yankees outfielder) Aaron Judge was asked if he has a different role after he signed his big contract. He said he’s going to keep doing what he did to get that. That’s what got him there. So why change that? That’s the approach I take.
In order for them to make a decision like that and for me to make a decision like that, they obviously thought I deserved it. They like the character that I have, the way I can lead a team and everything else I bring on and off the court. With being able to be me in an organization like this, I try to bring positive energy. I’m grateful and appreciative.
I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s pressure. If anything, it’s more exciting to know I’m locked into the Bay for the next five (years). We can go through the highs and lows of whatever it is. I embrace that. At 23 years old, it’s a pretty cool challenge.
On that note, Kerr said that he’s “excited about what’s ahead” for you. What do you envision?
That’s a good question. I’m a big believer with being where your feet are and being present. I’m trying to learn as much as I can with the greatness I’m around now. With the way basketball and life goes, I may not be on the same team with these guys forever. So, I’m trying to collect as much knowledge as I can. Whether it’s playing without these guys and playing with these guys, I’m embracing everything that I do.
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Mark Medina is a senior writer/analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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