Klay Thompson lets his play do the talking against Spurs
Warriors’ quiet star and ‘fourth fiddle’ is averaging a team-best 29 points in the playoffs
OAKLAND, California — Jarobi from the rap group A Tribe Called Quest. Vanessa Huxtable from The Cosby Show. George Harrison, “the quiet Beatle.” Charlotte from Sex and the City. Turtle from Entourage. Klay Thompson from the Golden State Warriors.
What do these real and fictional music, entertainment and sports celebrities have in common?
Each often didn’t receive much respect as the fourth star. Perhaps Thompson is on that fourth fiddle list because he has talked softly while carrying a big jumper for the Warriors for seven years. And while one of the NBA’s all-time greatest shooters couldn’t care less about any attention, it’s time for the Warriors sharpshooter, who is usually mentioned after fellow All-Star teammates Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, to get his just due.
“Just appreciate who he is as a person and how he approaches the game of basketball,” Durant said. “I just have so much respect for him.”
Thompson scored 31 points, nailed 5 of 8 3-point attempts and dished out 5 assists during the Warriors’ 116-101 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of a first-round NBA playoff series on Monday night. The four-time NBA All-Star scored at least 30 points for the 10th time in his playoff career. Thompson is averaging a team-best 29 points per game in the postseason and has made 10 of 14 3-pointers.
Thompson, who reads the newspaper before games, probably doesn’t garner many of the big headlines he sees in print. Why? He keeps it simple and doesn’t have a lot to say to the media when he talks. Curry, Durant and Green are media darlings. While Thompson will occasionally show emotion on the floor, as with 10:24 remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 2 when he nailed a turnaround jumper, he doesn’t have the swag of Curry, the coolness of Durant or the vocal and physical bravado of Green.
Curry, Durant and Green are familiar faces on national commercials, while Thompson is known locally for his dog Rocco. And while Thompson was a big donor to relief from the wildfires that devastated Northern California last year, fellow African-Americans Curry, Durant and Green garnered more notice for speaking out on social and racial issues.
Asked whether his son gets enough credit, former NBA center Mychal Thompson said: “Credit only matters when it comes from Warriors owner Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, head coach Steve Kerr, assistant coach Ron Adams and his teammates. All the other stuff is noise.”
This is nothing new for Thompson.
Just days before the 2011 NBA draft, no Warriors fans recognized Thompson at the Oakland Grill when he chomped on a blackened catfish salad for lunch during an interview with yours truly while at Yahoo! Sports. Washington State was the only Pacific-10 Conference school that offered him a scholarship out of high school. The Warriors were shocked to be able to select the two-time All-Pac-10 selection with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft. Whether it’s been Curry or Monta Ellis or Green or Durant, Thompson has never owned the spotlight for long with Golden State.
“There are a lot of doubters and haters out there who think I’m not athletic, slow and just a spot-up shooter,” Thompson said before the 2011 NBA draft. “But I have to prove I have more game than what I got.”
Thompson has definitely proven that, averaging 19.2 points and shooting 42.2 percent from 3-point range in his NBA career.
The 6-foot-7, 215-pounder scored 60 points on a career-high 21 made field goals in 29 minutes on Dec. 5, 2016, against the Indiana Pacers. The 2016 NBA 3-point champion also earned an NBA record for points in a quarter with 37 against the Sacramento Kings on perfect 9-of-9 shooting from 3-point range on Jan. 23, 2015. He is a 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games gold medalist who is back on USA Basketball’s national team roster. The two-time All-NBA third-team selection is an elite defender who defends the best guard nightly.
“He’s a tough cover. He’s a big-time shooter. He has a quick release,” Spurs All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge said.
Thompson has never missed more than 10 games in a season since his rookie year. The two-time NBA champion missed eight games with a fractured right thumb from March 14-29. Since his return, Thompson has been knocking down his pretty jumper consistently, showing no signs of injury.
After seeing Thompson score 24 of his 31 points in the second half of Game 2, Kerr said he believes Thompson needed the rest.
“The injury may have helped him a little bit,” Kerr said. “He finally got some time off. Klay has to defend the opponent’s best guard night in, night out. He never misses a game. He’s been in our league seven years and I don’t know how many games he’s missed. But not a lot. So I think, in hindsight, probably wasn’t the worst thing for him to get a few weeks off because he looks really, really fresh and sharp right now.”
Barring some major comeback, the Kawhi Leonard-less Spurs will soon have their season ended by the reigning NBA champion Warriors. Curry is expected back from a strained knee during the second round of the playoffs. But until Curry returns, Thompson feels the need to do more from the perimeter.
“Just play hard,” Thompson said. “No one can make up for Steph’s contributions individually. That’s got to be done as a team. And even then, it’s hard with the way he can shoot the ball.”
Jarobi was known for his great dancing and energy and became an amazing chef. Vanessa was the best student of the Huxtable children and went off to college a year early. Harrison wrote “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something,” which became the Beatles’ second-most covered song. Charlotte ended up making concessions that even surprised her wilder girlfriends, converted to Judaism for her husband and adopted a girl from China. Turtle became a millionaire from his stocks with a tequila brand and was Kanye West’s homeboy.
As for Thompson, he could win a couple of more NBA titles and another Olympic gold medal, have his No. 11 jersey retired by the Warriors and get inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame when his playing days are done.
Not a bad projection for the Warriors’ fourth fiddle.