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Klay's essence means more to the Warriors than his skills

/ by Monte Poole
Presented By Waiakea
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SAN FRANCISCO – He is not a savior, certainly not the savior.

But Klay Thompson returns to the basketball court Sunday and the Warriors will be immensely richer for it.

“Super excited,” Juan Toscano-Anderson said after practice at Chase Center on Saturday. “Before anything, I’m a fan of his game. I love his game. And the game needs Klay. He’s one of the best shooters to ever play this game. It’s just a beautiful thing. The game is art to me, so I just appreciate it.

“It’s fun watching him play. The way he shoots the ball is a beautiful thing. The mechanics. Everything. It’s just very aesthetically pleasing.”

Pretty jump shots matter, and Klay delivers those as well as anyone who ever played the game. In addition to the tangibles. He also brings a deep list of intangibles, all of which should make every aspect of basketball and beyond easier for the Warriors.

That’s the power of Klay’s authenticity. Klay is real, as genuine as real gets and it’s why his overall presence is his greatest value to the team.

“He helps create a great vibe every day,” coach Steve Kerr said. 

Because Klay is “like water,” to borrow a phrase made popular by the late Bruce Lee, the air in any room gets lighter when Klay enters. Energy escalates. Teammates and coaches laugh and exhale – or simply relax in the company of Klay’s typical sangfroid – and remember they are paid very well to play games.

 

“Klay is just funny, random, filled with a bunch of joy,” Toscano-Anderson said. “He’s fun to be around. He makes you realize that this is real life and not just basketball because he still has a personality. He is not like a robot. Even when things might get a little serious on the court, he makes a comment or a joke and you laugh. And it just reminds you that we’re human.”

Thompson navigates life as many others wish they could. He is quiet and he is talkative. He is hilarious – often unintentionally – and he is able to sharpen his focus to the finest point conceivable. Whether he is on his boat, or with his dog, or in the locker room, there is an abundance of joie de vivre.

Shortly after DeMarcus Cousins was introduced as a Warrior in July 2018, the big man talked about how well he knew and liked his new teammates. Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Thompson were among Cousins’ teammates in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, where Team USA won gold. 

“Just to put this out there,” Cousins said, “my favorite, by far, is Klay. Our short time together in the summers is like . . . For him to be as dull as he is, there’s never a dull moment.”

Eleven months later, after Thompson sustained a torn ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, a saddened Boogie had expressed an even higher level of respect for Klay.

“He’s the true definition of a Warrior,” Cousins said. “The dude, basically on one leg, was still trying to come out and play. To have a teammate like that, I mean that’s all you can ever ask for. Love that dude to death. I’ll go to battle with him any day.”

Understand, now, Cousins doesn’t do hyperbole. He is spare with compliments and even more careful with expressions of admiration. He can be as grumpy as a morning hurricane and does not go out of his way to gas up anyone.

Yet Boogie was completely enamored by someone who doesn’t go out of his way to charm anyone. Which is part of Klay’s allure.

I asked Kerr if he could articulate what it is about Thompson that seems to invite affection from men, women, boys, girls, animals, and, of course, his teammates.

“It’s impossible to describe,” the coach said. “He just does it by being himself. That’s the beauty of it. He doesn’t have to try.”

RELATED: The NBA has changed in major ways since Klay last played

The Klay jump shots are on the way, and though they won’t cure every Warriors ailment, they should on Sunday make them more difficult for the Cleveland Cavaliers to defend.

But Klay is bringing his indefatigable essence, too, and that’s what will make the Warriors almost impossible to for any team to defeat.

 

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