Jordan Poole adjusts to new Warriors role with Klay Thompson return

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 change, and quite another to experience it fully. It’s a reality that Poole and the Warriors are still trying to deal with at the start of Thompson’s comeback.

“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 expected it. We have to understand that. We’re a very good team. We know that. Klay is a “very, very good player. I’ve just reacclimatized him to our way of playing. He’s been out for two years. It’s a bit of a different team to the one he had when he left.

“We’re just trying to put all the pieces together.”

Poole had been quiet the previous three games coming off the bench with Thompson in the starting lineup. But as Thompson was rested in the back-to-back return game on Friday, Poole was reinserted into his role as starting keeper and was more aggressive from the first tip.

The third-year guard provided an immediate boost to the Warriors offense, scoring eight points in the first four minutes of the game.

After dropping four of their last five games, including a resounding loss at Milwaukee on Thursday, the Warriors desperately needed 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 points in the first half to give Golden State a 31-point lead at the break.

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Poole had been silent 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 only scored 12 points (3-for-11) at Memphis and just nine points on a 2 for 7 in Milwaukee.

It was a different, more aggressive Poole who spoke Friday in Chicago. The one the Warriors got used to seeing at the start of the season when he was a human microwave capable of giving them 30+ nights.

Thompson’s minutes are expected to increase on Sunday when the Warriors visit the Minnesota Timberwolves. Poole will return to his new reality as the sixth man. It’s a role he and the Warriors know he can thrive in. He showed it. But their biggest challenge remains figuring out how to ensure the aggressive Poole shows up more frequently when he comes 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 we do differently. It’s a bit different for Jordan coming off the bench rather than starting, but we just want both guys to be super aggressive. The ball came in for them early and they both had good 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 insist on.

It’s still early in Thompson’s comeback. The Warriors know that these next four to six weeks will be about rediscovering their identity and getting all the pieces to match the Splash Bros. reunited. It’s a first world problem the NBA has to have.

But that’s the biggest question mark facing a Warriors team that many believe is destined to return to the NBA Finals. A locked-in Poole and an aggressive Wiggins are the keys to making those visions a reality, and the coming weeks will be all about Kerr and the Warriors figuring out how to put all the pieces of their championship puzzle together.

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