NBA

Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole’s brotherly bond was secret to Warriors success

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BOSTON — Every hug and hug was special for its own reason as the last seconds counted Thursday night at TD Garden once it became official the Warriors were champions again, beating the Boston Celtics in six games in the NBA 2022 Finals.

One of the longest and strongest was Jordan Poole who rested his face on Klay Thompson’s right shoulder, the two wrapping their arms around each other. At ten years of age, an unbreakable bond and a lifetime of mentorship shone into the spotlight of a crowning glory: the first championship for Poole, 22, and a fourth for Thompson, 32.

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“He took me under his wing and from the practices together, to the texts, to the chats and the locker room conversations and the calls, it was really special to see someone who is as closed as a bit like him- same,” Poole said after the post-match podium. . “He’s his own person, and for him to kiss me at such a young age and kind of take me under his wing, teach me his tricks and show me his plan is really special, and I’m happy to have that. to be a part of. “

With a towel draped over him to soak up the celebratory champagne and his championship hat draped over his blue headband, Thompson sent a special message to reporters while heading into his final interview of the season.

“Last interview of the night,” he said. “Man, I hate interviews! But I’m glad to be here. Man, this is awesome!”

Poole has his 90-second rule for interviews, which disappeared as his star status grew. Klay taps the table and often looks away when answering questions, even in his 11th year as a pro and in his ninth season taking his two years lost to injury.

Sometimes it’s the last place they want to be. Thursday night in Boston, they soaked it all up. As Poole said, Thompson can be for himself. He is happiest in water or on hardwood. However, they are both gym rats, basketball junkies who are always striving to take their game to levels that so many doubted they would ever reach.

Steve Kerr tried to warn us during the offseason. After returning from the G League bubble in Orlando where he averaged more than 22 points per game, Poole, the former No. 28 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, returned as an all new player for the Warriors last season. He averaged 5.5 points before playing 11 games for the Santa Cruz Warriors, and 14.7 after. Last summer, Poole’s second home was the gymnasium.

His work ethic was never in question after being drafted by the Warriors. He also knew he was capable of more than he had shown in his first two seasons as a professional. The work turned into results.

As Thompson continued to fight back from his second of two grueling leg injuries that saw him miss two and a half years of his prime, Poole seamlessly stepped into his starting role this season. In 32 games played — 29 starts — before Thompson returned on Jan. 9 after a 941-day hiatus, Poole averaged 17.5 points per game. He scored 20 points in the season opener and reached that mark 11 times before Klay’s return, including four games where he dropped at least 30 points.

“With him falling earlier this year, I can just play that role, show what I’m capable of, and you know, basically hold it until he comes back,” Poole said. “We got off to an 18-2 start, and I think that showed how talented we are.

“He taught me so much.”

The closer he got to Klay’s return, the more clearly Kerr made it clear that Thompson wasn’t going to come off the bench. He earned the right to hear his name called in the starting lineup. It also raised false grumbles about possible jealousy from Poole and a problem within the Warriors.

The truth is that while Poole wanted to continue starting deep like all true competitors, any feelings of animosity were far from reality. Due to Poole’s rise this season, the dynamic between the two has gained a brighter spotlight. It’s not something new for them, however.

Golden State drafted Poole a week after Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 Finals. It was his first major injury and a new low for him on and off the court. There were countless dark days. For Poole, the Splash Brother was a bright light when the Michigan product was in trouble.

Klay even saw a younger version of himself when Poole was a rookie, trying to get his feet wet on a Warriors team that had lost Thompson to injury, Kevin Durant to free agency and Steph Curry to injury four games into the league. season. The Warriors finished the regular season with the worst record in the NBA. Thompson made sure he was there to pick up Poole when he needed it most.

“As far as Jordan is concerned, it’s my turn,” Thompson told reporters after the Warriors won the Western Conference, defeating the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals at Chase Center. “I remember a few years ago when he was going through a shooting slump, he was so hard on himself. It reminded me of my youth. I kept telling him, it’s going to pay off young guy, you’re going to play in the NBA Finals one day.

“I told him that on the bench, third game of the season, when we were hit. He was going through it as a 19-year-old rookie. Now for that to happen, I mean, I’m so happy.”

When Thomson returned, Poole was benched. Well, at least half the time. Poole played 44 games after with Klay back in the fold, but the young shooter still started 22 more games with the Warriors preventing Thompson from playing back-to-back. And Poole only got better.

He averaged 19.2 points per game while shooting 45% from the field and 38.3% from 3-point range. He broke out in his first career playoff game, scoring 30 points in Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets and averaged 17.0 points per game while shooting 50.8 percent from the field and 39 .1% from 3-point range throughout the playoffs.

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Thompson played 32 regular season games after completing his comeback. He scored 41 points in the season finale against the New Orleans Pelicans and scored 110 points in his final three games, averaging 20.4 points per game for the season. That gave him six straight seasons averaging at least 20 points per game.

Game 6 Klay then showed up against the Memphis Grizzlies, scoring 30 points at the Chase Center to advance to the conference finals. Exactly 1,099 days after donning the Warriors uniform, Thompson is a four-time champion. Along the way, he called his shot with his prediction to Poole. Not only did Jordan play in the final, but he held a major key to winning his first ring.

The two have been through the gutters each of the past two seasons, the only thing being new bling on the other side. Their family brotherhood silenced all naysayers and connects the future of this Splash family.

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