Klay Thompson proves his worth to Warriors in many ways vs. Nuggets

Klay Thompson proves his worth to Warriors in many ways vs. Nuggets

OAKLAND — Klay Thompson had a simple declaration for Kerith Burke just before he left the court during halftime Friday night. 

 "We're dialed in. We’re having fun over here!" the Warriors guard proclaimed in his first game back from an injured knee. 


Over the last few weeks, such statements have been few and far as the Warriors navigate one of their worst stretches of the season. But with this matchup against the Nuggets providing a chance to stay atop the Western Conference, Thompson's 39 points and nine 3-pointers brought a calm to the champs in a season full of chaos. 

Thompson's impact was immediate in the 122-105 win at Oracle Arena. He scored 10 points in the first quarter, helping push the Warriors' lead as high as 19. By halftime, he pushed his point total to 27, making six 3-pointers before the break.

More noticeable was Thompson's play during times of need. When the Nuggets erased a 19-point deficit midway through the second quarter, it was Thompson who hit a timely shot, sparking a 17-4 run to close the half.

When the Nuggets threatened again in the second half, cutting the lead to 11, it was Thompson who blocked a shot and hit another 3-pointer to put the game out of reach. 

"He impacted the game in so many ways," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "He obviously had 39 points, but it's his defense, too. Chasing ball handlers over those high screens, being physical, using his length and intelligence to make guys uncomfortable ... he was amazing. He was awesome." 

Thompson's performance came at a particular moment of peril for the Warriors. Entering Friday, they were giving up 111.4 points per contest, posting a 109.5 defensive rating over their last five games and winning just three of seven since the All-Star break.

The Warriors' fortunes got worse when Thompson suffered a knee injury against the Magic. Then, the team suffered its worst loss of the Steve Kerr era, losing to the Celtics 128-95 on Tuesday night as Thompson rehabbed.

So, with just a one-game lead over the Nuggets in the Western Conference standings entering Friday, Thompson needed a big game.

"It was a good step in the right direction," Stephen Curry said. "We wanted to obviously beat them and create some separation because we have a lot of work to do to get that No. 1 seed and pull out the season strong."

Last season, the Warriors' disinterest led to a 7-10 finish to the regular season, marking the first time under Kerr that Golden State finished second in the Western Conference standings. More than seven hours before Friday's game, with the team just 3-5 since the All-Star break, Thompson was asked if he feared his team was going toward a similar path this season.  

[RELATED: Klay says Warriors still motivated to get home-court advantage]

"I don't have not one bit of concern in my body," he responded. "When we're challenged and our backs are against the wall, we are at our best. Knowing what's at stake these next 18 games, we got to play like that."

Hours later, his words rang true, and if the Warriors have it their way, Thompson's sentiments will carry out for the rest of the season and beyond. 

How John Stockton ruined Steve Kerr's chances of going to Gonzaga

How John Stockton ruined Steve Kerr's chances of going to Gonzaga

Warriors coach Steve Kerr played his college ball at the University of Arizona.

Why didn't the eight-time NBA champion go to Gonzaga instead?

Well, there's a hilarious story that provides the answer. Kerr recently was a guest on the "Scorebook Live Today" podcast with former Gonzaga guard Dan Dickau, and shared the details.

"So they were recruiting me my senior year. And I didn’t have any offers in the middle of my senior year, but I was getting some interest," Kerr explained. "Gonzaga sent me a letter, made a couple calls and they said, ‘Hey, we want you to come on a visit when the season’s over.’ And I said, 'Great.' I was excited. It was my first visit anywhere.

"They said, ‘Just bring your stuff -- you can play when you’re up here.’ I said, 'Perfect.' And I go up and see the campus, see the locker room, meet the coaches -- all that stuff. And they said, ‘Hey, our guys are going to play pickup. You should go join them.’ I said, 'Perfect.'

"Put my shoes on. I joined the pickup game. And I’m being guarded by a guy named John Stockton (laughter). He had just finished his senior season. He was getting ready for the draft. I’m a senior in high school. And I knew who he was because I was a basketball fan, and growing up on the West Coast I had heard of him. But it was a different time back then. You didn’t have all the games on TV and everything. So, I didn’t know that much about him.

"John proceeded to wipe the floor with me. He stole the ball from me, he scored on me at will. It was a total embarrassment. They basically took me into the office and they said, 'You know, we’re, we’re going to go in a different direction (laughter).’ So I always blamed John Stockton for ruining my future at Gonzaga."

Now that's some funny stuff.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Fortunately for Kerr, it all worked out in the end. He had a fantastic career at Arizona as he helped lead the Wildcats to the 1988 Final Four.

And needless to say -- it must have been pretty sweet for Kerr to make the game-winning/series-clinching shot against Stockton and the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals.

[RELATED: Kerr credits Westbrook for one of his favorite quotes ever]

Before we go, we have to address one detail. Kerr's visit to Spokane must have been in the spring of 1983 because he graduated high school soon thereafter. This means that Stockton wasn't yet preparing for the NBA draft because he was the No. 16 overall pick in 1984.

Oh well. No big deal. The story still stands.

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2020 NBA Draft sleepers: Can Jaden McDaniels develop into Kevin Durant?

2020 NBA Draft sleepers: Can Jaden McDaniels develop into Kevin Durant?

Editor's note: As the Warriors prepare for the 2020 NBA draft, during which they will have a lottery pick for the first time since 2012, NBC Sports Bay Area will present a twice-weekly series spotlighting two players expected to be evaluated. This is the seventh of a 12-part series over the next six weeks.

The long and exceedingly lean physique is reminiscent of a Brandon Ingram or a Jonathan Isaac or a Chris Boucher. Or even a young Kevin Durant.

That the resume is as thin as frame partly explains why Jaden McDaniels is a bit of a sleeper. After one season at the University of Washington, there is a chance he’ll sneak into the lottery but it’s more likely he’ll be drafted later in the first round.

Potential is why McDaniels is on the radar of NBA teams, including the Warriors. If Golden State trades out of the top five and drops toward the middle of the draft, McDaniels likely will be available. His game is, at his best, is stellar.

McDaniels is as comfortable playing above the rim as pulling up from deep. Despite being 6-foot-10, he handles well enough to score off the dribble. In his collegiate debut, he scored 18 pounds, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked four shots in an upset win over mighty Baylor.

Indeed, it is McDaniels’ combination of small forward finesse and power forward length that caught the attention of opposing coaches and NBA scouts.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Those scouts already knew McDaniels was a five-star prospect at Federal Way High in the Seattle area. They’d already seen the clips, including those in which McDaniels, perhaps bored, would finish in transition by lobbing balls off the backboard to himself for dunks.

They also glimpsed red flags. McDaniels was prone to turnovers. His shot selection was spotty. There was some inconsistency insofar as some nights McDaniels was the best player on the floor and other nights he was liability to the Huskies.

It also will concern front offices that McDaniels displayed fits of immaturity. That was a factor in him leading the Pac-12 Conference in technical fouls with six. He also fouled out eight times in 31 games. At one point of the season, McDaniels was benched by Huskies coach Mike Hopkins, who was displeased with a spate of fouls and poor judgment.

McDaniels is, in this regard, not unlike teenage Marquese Chriss, who struggled in his first three NBA seasons but exhibited clear signs of maturity after joining the Warriors last fall.

McDaniels, however, has a deeper basket of pure offensive skills and possesses the ability to defend at least three positions. The comps in most mock drafts – such as Ingram and Isaac – are not so much about what he is than about what he can be.

If McDaniels, the younger brother of Hornets guard Jalen McDaniels, matures nicely contains his emotions and adds 10-15 pounds to his frame there is a reasonable chance he can become a star. It’s rare that someone with his size/skill combination comes along.

[RELATED: Could Cassius Winston follow Draymond?]

Some team will be willing to take that chance. McDaniels is a longshot for the Warriors, but any play they make for him will come only after they’ve gone beyond the tantalizing gifts and come away convinced their culture can help him reach his ceiling.

Jaden McDaniels

Position: Forward
Class: Freshman
Birthdate: Sept. 29, 2000 (19)
Hometown: Federal Way, Wash.
2019-20 stats: 13.0 points (40.5 percent FG, 33.9 percent 3p, 76.3 percent FT), 5.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 blocks.
Height: 6-foot-10
Weight: 200
Wingspan: 7 feet
What they’re saying: “You know the funny thing is, and I don’t mean funny to make a joke, but only really good players can lead a league in (turnovers and fouls). You go take a look at the all-time leaders on those lists and it’s nothing but Hall of Famers. I say that to say, how good must Jaden be to where he’s giving you so much that it outweighs those things you don’t like? And the answer is, he’s really, really good. Now as a coach, you have to ask yourself: ‘What can I live with and how can we curb some of those erratic behaviors?’” – former Warriors coach and current NBA/NCAA analyst P.J. Carlesimo, to the Seattle Times.