Wizards' Jordan Poole moved by ovation in return to Chase Center

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Saturday, December 23, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- Jordan Poole briefly lost the ball, retrieved it from a fan, and then playfully threw a pass back to the sideline to get a few boys from Israel involved in his warmup routine.

They absolutely loved it.

Seemingly loose and light-hearted, and of course wearing his signature hoodie, Poole smiled as he made the rounds of hellos and hugs during his return to Chase Center on Friday night to face his former team.

"Sticking to the plan," Poole said while hustling back to the locker room after his pregame work before Washington's matchup with Golden State. "That's all you can do."

Yes, he tried to stay "even keel" for what became an emotional night of memories.

"It was just special," Poole said after trading jerseys with fellow Milwaukee native and good friend Kevon Looney.

Part of the Warriors' 2022 championship, Poole, 24, was saluted with a pregame video tribute and greeted with a warm standing ovation. He then hit an 18-foot jumper from the wing to start the game before being booed each time he went to the free throw line.

Poole scored 25 points on 7-for-21 shooting in the Wizards' 129-118 loss. He went 3-for-12 on 3-pointers.

Afterward, he shared a nice embrace with Warriors coach Steve Kerr. The fifth-year guard signed autographs, too, and left fans so happy they cried.

"That was pretty special," he said. "It kind of shows my impact that I've had here, which is really cool, especially starting off my career early at the highest level, winning a championship, I played with a lot of Hall of Famers. But I really embraced myself with Dub Nation, submerged myself with them throughout my tenure here. It was pretty special to see that I got the love back."

The Warriors traded Poole to the Wizards for Chris Paul on draft day. It was last year during training camp when Poole was punched during practice by Draymond Green, who is serving an indefinite suspension by the NBA for hitting Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic in the face after previously serving a five-game ban for putting a chokehold on Minnesota's Rudy Gobert.

Kerr, who has long praised Poole's contributions and maturity during his growth into the professional game, couldn't wait to see how Poole was received from the fans.

"It was wonderful. The video and ovation Jordan got to me was the highlight of the game," Kerr said. "So well deserved for what he did for our organization and for our fans and players and coaches, just the work that he put in and obviously becoming a key member of the championship team. Jordan deserved that ovation. It was wonderful to see."

Poole has made an immediate impression on the Wizards by staying late and arriving early to do his work - a tireless energy when it comes to his game.

Coach Wes Unseld Jr. calls him "a basketball junkie" who has had to adapt to a new environment. Poole came into Friday averaging 17.2 points, 5.4 assists and 3.0 rebounds.

"I know it hasn't shown up in the box score, his overall efficiency early in the year wasn't great, but I think, once again, looking at the last handful of games it's much improved," Unseld said. "This is a very specific environment. The way they play, and him learning a new style, new coach, new teammates. And also, seeing different defenses he probably didn't see here coming off the bench and being more of a reserve player.

"To his credit, it hasn't changed his work ethic. He's the first one in the gym, last one to leave. He's a basketball junkie. Wants to be really good, puts in the time and the work, I think he's starting to see the dividends of that."