How Warriors star Klay Thompson made most of Washington State career


How Warriors star Klay Thompson made most of Washington State career

SAN FRANCISCO -- His shooting stroke was soft, almost poetic, gleaned from bloodlines steeped in basketball. He spent his adolescence in Southern California, with sandy beaches in one direction and the bright lights of Hollywood in the other.

These concerns, and anxieties typical of the recruiting trail, led to more than a few nervous folks at Washington State University in 2008. They were reaching high and not at all certain of making the grab.

Could they really persuade Klay Thompson to come to Pullman?

Would the teenage son of three-time NBA champion Mychal Thompson leave the comforts of SoCal for the southeastern Washington city, where winters are harsh, there is no beach and one could drive for miles without seeing humanity or even a home?

Two years later, Thompson not only was a Cougar but also had a key to the gym.

“That’s all I needed,” he said earlier this week.

Thompson returned to Pullman on Friday for a special event: His Washington State basketball jersey, No. 1, is being retired and will go into the rafters of Beasley Coliseum during halftime of the WSU-Oregon State game Saturday afternoon

"I'm really excited,” Thompson said Tuesday night. “I haven't been back in about five years. So, to go back and see the people I really grew up with, and the community that really embraced me. It's very nostalgic and it's just really cool, because [a jersey retirement[ was a dream of mine leaving Pullman. I didn't think it would ever come true. And it did, so it's exciting."

Thompson is a three-time NBA champion and a five-time All-Star with the Warriors. He won an Olympic gold medal at the Rio Games in 2016. The 6-foot-7 guard has established himself as one of the greatest pure shooters in basketball history.

Yet so much of his path to the top required what Thompson, who grew up in greater Portland, Ore. and at age 14 moved to Southern California, believes were a crucial three years at the most remote major college on the West Coast.

“There’s not much out there, besides wheat fields and some snow at times,” Thompson recalled.

“But it’s a beautiful place to be able to focus and make relationships that will last a lifetime,” he added. “And it allowed me to blossom into the person I am today.”

In three seasons as a starter at Thompson played 98 games, averaging 17.9 points per contest. By the time he left after his junior year, he had scored 1,756 points (third in school history) and drilled what then was a school-record 242 3-pointers.

He also experienced one of the most regrettable moments of his life. In March 2011, fewer than three months before the Warriors would draft him in the first round, No. 11 overall, Thompson was arrested for possession of marijuana. Then-WSU coach Ken Bone, having already set a precedent earlier that season, suspended Thompson for one game.

The final regular-season game, against UCLA, five days before the conference tournament.

Though Klay had gotten an earful from his father, he might not have needed it. He felt bad enough being forced to the sideline for a game that could influence WSU’s chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament.

So, before tipoff of the Cougars-Bruins game at Beasley, Thompson sought and was granted permission to address his teammates and the crowd.

“I made a mistake,” Thompson said then. “I had bad judgment, and I would do anything to be out there today.”

There was no doubt Thompson’s contrition was genuine. The man loves to play basketball. He loved being with his teammates. Loved making a difference at a place he knew nothing of only a few years earlier.

Spending his childhood in Oregon and SoCal, it was natural to want to play in the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) Conference. It’s the league Thompson followed closest and knew best.

UCLA and USC didn’t call. Neither did the Arizona schools or the Oregon schools. Nine schools searched elsewhere for talent. When then-WSU coach Tony Bennett, fingers crossed, extended an invitation, Klay accepted and made the recruiting trip.

A few weeks later, he bought in.

“I really believed in Tony Bennett,” Thompson recalled. “I believed in his program. I believed he could get me to the NBA with his tutelage. And I was inspired by seeing what that team did for that school and that city. They really brought a lot of pride to a community that seems to be in a very remote place. They embrace the Cougs like none other because that’s all that’s really out there in Eastern Washington is Cougar pride and the Palouse.

“That’s what drew me, especially coming from Southern California. It’s nice to get away from the grid and the city.”

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Nearly 12 years after choosing Washington State, Thompson has no regrets. Why would he? Yes, there was, for a fleeting moment, a glimpse of a mistake he thought could jeopardize his wish to reach the NBA.

But Thompson survived the frigid winters. He drew tranquility from the barren landscape. He found many new friends. He experienced a lifestyle he’d never known and was better for it.

“If I could go back and do it again,” he said, “I’d choose Pullman again every day of the week.”

Steve Kerr's frustrations boil over after Warriors' loss to Lakers

Steve Kerr's frustrations boil over after Warriors' loss to Lakers

SAN FRANCISCO -- Anything that needed to be known about the Warriors' 116-86 blowout loss to the Lakers on Thursday evening could be gathered by the end of Steve Kerr's postgame press conference. 

Usually a candid speaker, the coach had pointed responses for any and all questions following the Warriors' eighth straight loss. 

"It's not fun," Kerr deadpanned when asked how he's dealing with the season.

A question about his battered roster elicited a slightly extended response. 

"We have a high degree of hobbledness," Kerr quipped. 

Kerr's frustration comes with merit. As of Thursday, the Warriors have lost more games this season than his first three seasons combined. While injuries to Klay Thompson and Steph Curry provide valid excuses for the lost season, his team's effort in its latest defeat brought the coach to a new low.  

"We understand where we are record-wise," Kerr said. "But we still have a standard that we need to play to and we didn't do that." 

Kerr's ire began with 5:45 left in the first half, when forward Draymond Green was ejected after earning his second technical foul of the game, putting him two away from an automatic suspension. It was compounded in the third quarter when the Warriors were outscored 40-17. Along the way, the Warriors accumulated 27 turnovers, prompting Kerr to reach his breaking point. 

"Tonight was a step backward in the second half," Kerr admitted. "I was very disappointed with all of the turnovers. We just let things slip away from us." 

Kerr's disappointment comes as the organization is in transition. Injuries to Thompson and Curry all but erased any aspirations of playing in the postseason. Still, Golden State has been praised by opponents for its consistent effort. Last month, they forced overtime against the Denver Nuggets, who own the second-best record in the Western Conference. Three weeks before that, the Warriors handily beat the Houston Rockets on Christmas Day. None of the qualities from those wins appeared Thursday evening, much to Kerr's chagrin. 

"For the most part, this year has gone well in terms of our level of competition and energy," Kerr said. "But that second half was not up to our standards." 

Thursday's loss also coincides with the Warriors' roster flux. Of the 14 players on the team's opening day roster, just eight suited up against the Lakers. Following Thursday's shootaround, Mychal Mulder signed a 10-day contract as the team walked off the floor. Minutes prior to tip-off, the team announced forward Andrew Wiggins would not play because of back spasms. Nonetheless, Kerr wouldn't use the ever-changing roster as an excuse for the losses.

"I think you can probably attribute the lack of continuity to that," Kerr said. "We're putting some lineups that haven't been together all year. Having said that, a lot of careless one-handed passing, cross-court, right into the defender's arms. A lot of plays that just had nothing to do with continuity and everything to do with fundamentals."

[RELATED: A night full of horrors]

Just before walking out of his presser, Kerr was asked how he was dealing pile-up of losses. More specifically, how his sanity has been tested. Following a laugh, Kerr used levity to uncover his frustrations amid the toughest season of his tenure. 

"That's a loaded question," Kerr said. "We're dealing with it, but as I told you guys before, you start racking up the losses and it gets extremely frustrating, you need to win a game, we need to win a game once in a while just to feel better about things and right now we're in a bad stretch so it's tough."

Warriors experience full night of horrors in lopsided loss to Lakers

Warriors experience full night of horrors in lopsided loss to Lakers

SAN FRANCISCO -- It was two hours before tipoff against the Los Angeles Lakers, and Warriors coach Steve Kerr’s temperature started to rise as he spit out the ugly truth about this season.

“Yeah, but you gotta win once in a while,” the Kerr said. “It sounds like I’m making a joke, but it’s really the truth. What I’ve found over the course of this year is we absolutely feel satisfaction from watching young players grow, working with them.

“But you gotta win one (game). You get to five, six, seven (losses) in a row and all of a sudden, it’s like, ‘C’mon.’ It’s miserable losing. You need to win one to keep things going, to keep things fresh, to let everybody breathe and feel good about things.

“We’re at that stage right now. It’s been seven in a row. We need to win.”

Fewer than three hours later, Draymond Green, returning to the lineup after a two-game absence, got himself ejected and strolled into the locker room, thereby sparing himself the maddening tedium to come.

An hour after that, late in an atrocious fourth quarter, the Lakers were running the Warriors off the floor and the Chase Center crowd was roaring its approval.

You read that right.

Ten minutes after that, a very audible "M-V-P" chant echoed through the building as Lakers reserve Alex Caruso, a cult figure of sorts, was standing at the line to shoot free throws.

Finally, about 15 minutes later, after a 34-point second half, the Warriors were trudging into the ultra-comfortable locker room lugging their eighth consecutive loss, routed 116-86 by a Lakers team without a single minute from LeBron James.

Many were the scenes the Warriors never wanted to see, and many were the sounds they never wanted to hear.

“Tonight was a step backward in the second half,” Kerr said in his post-game news conference. “I was very disappointed with all of the turnovers. We just let things slip away from us. For the most part this year, things have gone well in terms of our level of competition, focus and energy. The second half was not up to our standards. We understand where we are record-wise (12-47), but we still have a standard that we have to play to. We did not do that in the second half.”

Kerr barely was able to submerge his displeasure with Draymond’s tantrum that resulted in back-to-back technical fouls, 11 seconds apart from two different officials, with 5:45 remaining in the first half. The Warriors were trailing 42-37 and looking capable of making a game of it.

They were outscored 74-49 over the final 30 minutes.

“We needed him in the second half. We missed him out there,” Kerr said of Green.

“It was huge,” Damion Lee said of the ejection. “His presence is always felt when he is on the court and on the bench.”

This was the eighth consecutive home loss for the Warriors, who went 0-for-6 at Chase Center for the month of February. It will be March 1 when they return to face the Washington Wizards on Sunday and there is no certainty that Steph Curry, as much as he’d like to, will be back on the court.

That would give the Warriors a boost and, naturally, also transport CEO Joe Lacob from this night, the likes of which he never imagined he would experience at Chase Center.

For as agonizing as it was to gulp down this massive defeat -- and Lacob despises losing at any endeavor -- it surely was worse to have the Lakers and their fans take over the building.

It’s one thing to have your tickets devalued to the point where those holding them will deal them to fans of a rival, quite another to have that rival and their fans throw a wallop party at your expense.

[RELATED: Steph's nerve issue could take a year to heal, trainer says]

From the season-high 27 turnovers, to the painful ejection, to the unwatchable second half, to the M-V-P chants that must have felt like a punch to the gut, neither Lacob nor anyone affiliated with the Warriors had anything to praise.

They want to forget this game and pray to the heavens they never have another one like it.