Klay Thompson isn’t just “back,” the Splash Brother singlehandedly has stepped up and kept the previously-drowning Warriors afloat in the wild expedition that is the Western Conference.
His shot is looking sharp again, it’s been that way for a few months now. But that isn’t what has most impressed general manager Bob Myers recently.
With Steph Curry sidelined with a lower leg injury and Andrew Wiggins set to miss his sixth consecutive game for personal reasons, plus Draymond Green’s right knee contusion keeping him out of a pair of contests -- Thompson has been forced into an unfamiliar, more vocal role.
“His leadership. He’s had to step up in Curry’s absence and then Draymond’s missing some games and Wiggins,” Myers said of Thompson on 95.7 The Game’s “Steiny and Guru” on Wednesday. “What I’ve loved about Klay since January is that he’s kind of put the team on his back in some respects, in games where Klay has won us the game. He’s basically said, ‘I’m going to win this game for this team.’
“He’s not the most demonstrative guy, but now he’s gesturing to the crowd, and he’s slapping his teammates and you can feel his will when you’re at the games. You can feel him willing us in certain ways.”
The vocal side of things usually is left for Green, Curry or Andre Iguodala. Thompson doesn’t do too much talking. Once he steps on the floor, it’s go time. He typically lets his actions do the talking for him.
That’s not to say that Thompson isn’t a leader by any means. In his 12 seasons with the Warriors, the sharpshooter has proven to lead in other ways.
But under these specific circumstances with Golden State at this point in this season, it’s left him no choice. And like any true competitor, he’s willing to do what it takes to lead his team to victory.
So far, it’s working.
"I think for a little bit in the season, he was trying to find his own way and just had to focus on himself. And now that he’s found himself and is confident in what he’s doing individually, he’s sharing that with the team now," Myers said. "It’s the best version of Klay in the last few months. As a teammate, as a leader, he’s playing great himself. You look at him rebounding better, he’s in the mix, he’s just doing a lot of good things.
"But mostly what I see, I sit a few rows behind the bench, is the leadership part. Even last night in the fourth quarter, he checked in with nine minutes to go, I said, ‘We got to hold this until Klay gets back in,’ and he came in and you guys watch the games. I know you see it. It’s just fun to watch him succeed."
Thompson's first month of the 2022-23 NBA season was a little rocky. It was the first time he opened a season since 2018. From Oct. 18 to Nov. 18, the 33-year-old averaged 15.5 points on 36.3 percent shooting from the field and 33.6 percent from deep in 13 contests. Since then, his shooting and scoring have fluctuated.
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But the second half of the season has been an entirely different story so far. Since January, Thompson is averaging 26.2 points on 45.6 percent shooting from the field and 44.3 percent from behind the arc. And to be even more specific, Thompson is averaging 28.0 points on 47.3 percent shooting from the field and 47.0 percent from downtown since Curry has been out.
As Myers pointed out, Thompson's rebounding has improved and his overall aggressiveness has led to direct results for the Warriors. Wins.
The Warriors were 27-26 when Curry was ruled out. They're now 32-30, good enough for fifth in the loaded West and just 1.5 games behind the fourth-place Phoenix Suns.
When all odds seemingly were against Golden State during the worst time possible, Thompson put his Captain hat on and is keeping the Dubs above water.
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