SAN FRANCISCO – There are occasions when a star joining an NBA roster requires a team-wide adjustment that could take weeks. Or months. Consider, for example, the calamity that ensued this season when Russell Westbrook joined the Lakers.
Then there are times when the new star slides into the starting lineup and fits as if he’s been there all along.
For example, see Klay Thompson and the Warriors.
Thompson is not coming to a new team, but when he takes the floor Sunday against the Cavaliers, he’ll enter an entirely new rotation. Of the 12 Warriors getting regular minutes, only five – Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Damion Lee and Kevon Looney – have played with Klay.
“We’ve seen Draymond, Steph and Loon all play with Klay very successfully and vice versa,” Kerr said before tipoff on Sunday. “There’s a sense of comfort in that even though it’s been a long time since they’ve all played together.”
Fair enough. But the other seven players getting regular or semi-regular minutes – Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, Otto Porter Jr., Gary Payton II, Nemanja Bjelica, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Jonathan Kuminga – arrived while Klay was sidelined and will have to learn on the fly.
Time to worry? Maybe. But the re-assimilation of Klay, should not take long. The most significant aspect will be his rust after such a long layoff.
“The good thing is anybody on earth can play with Klay because he doesn’t dominate the ball,” Kerr said the other day. “He’s a really easy guy to play with.
“But we’re going to need reps – for him and with him – for him to really get going.”
That could lead to a few messy moments early, but nearly six weeks of scrimmaging should reduce outright catastrophe. There was a scrimmage on Saturday, after which Thompson spent considerable time on the court with Poole and Kuminga.
Thompson is famous for many things, one being that he scored 60 points while taking only 11 dribbles. Unlike a Westbrook, or even a Kyrie Irving, both of whom are at their best when handling the ball, Klay’s greatest skill is the easiest one to add.
There’s a sublime simplicity to what he does: Get open, catch the ball, shoot it.
This, no matter what, is a moment that exhilarates everybody within the Warriors’ sphere.
“It feels surreal, honestly,” Kerr said. “Having our coaches’ meeting and actually talking about Klay. It felt great, but it felt strange. It’s been so long. I think the players felt it, too, in our (pregame) walk-through.
“It was almost surreal. He’s finally back. The day’s finally here.”
So, please excuse the occasional rough moments. Blame, if you will, the emotions inside Chase Center. That’s hardly enough to disrupt the momentum the Warriors have built through the first 38 games.