Warriors

Omri Casspi flooded with emotions after best game with Warriors: 'I'm loving it'

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AP

Omri Casspi flooded with emotions after best game with Warriors: 'I'm loving it'

OAKLAND -- Omri Casspi took a deep breath and paused and started talking and, honestly, seemed to be suppressing his emotions to keep them from tumbling out.

The veteran forward was moments removed from his most extended playing time as a member of the Warriors, 20 minutes in a 125-101 win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

Casspi, 29, is a native of Israel who has been on six different NBA rosters, Sacramento to the west, Houston and New Orleans to the south, Cleveland to the east and Minnesota to the west. Now that he’s member of the Warriors, well, he seems downright grateful to be here and particularly appreciative to have Steve Kerr has his head coach.

Asked what it means to have a coach who spent his 15-year NBA career as a reserve and can share that kinship, Casspi needed a moment.

“Wow. I can’t even put it into words,” he said. “It’s the first time . . . he really knows how to get to me, coaching into my heart.

“As a player that comes into a team that obviously won championships, you know what you’re getting into, it’s really important for me as an individual that you have that relationship with your coach. And I feel like he really got to my heart. He keeps me going. He’s a very special human being . . . I’m enjoying this very much.”

That much was apparent Wednesday. He had submitted a fine line: 13 points, three rebounds, three blocks, two steals and one assist. He had played a total of 65 minutes over the first 11 games, and he was savoring the opportunity.

“I feel like it’s first time in my career, not to take anything from the different teams I’ve played with in the past,” he said, “but I feel like the way we play, our offense, our defense as well . . . I feel like I can play basketball and not think too much. Just play the game.”

For Casspi, that means moving without the ball and making slick passes on offense, while sneaking in and being a disruptive force on defense. He was plus-9 because he was effective at both ends.

So effective was Casspi that as he stood at the line to shoot free throws in the fourth quarter, as the Warriors were closing out the victory, he received “MVP” chants from the Oracle Arena crowd.

It’s enough to leave his coach beaming.

“On a night like this, it allows guys like Omri and Nick (Young) to step in there and get good minutes,” Kerr said. “It’s good for the team, it’s good for morale, it’s good for individual development.”

There is that kinship thing. Kerr is a big believer in communicating with all of his players, especially those who don’t have established roles and regular playing time. That was him 20 years ago, and he seems to excel at having a feel for backup players.

So Casspi, playing behind a championship team with established stars for the first time, is positively euphoric.

“I’m able to cut and do the stuff that role players should do,” he said. “I’m enjoying it, I’m loving it and I want to keep doing it. And keep going and play hard and do what I need to do.”

Many reasons why Klay Thompson wants to play for Warriors his entire career

Many reasons why Klay Thompson wants to play for Warriors his entire career

Don’t fall for the stories implying the Warriors, because they are so collaborative, are a team comprising individuals without ego. It’s an oft-implied crock, a myth that fits a particular and happy narrative.

So please dismiss the notion that Klay Thompson is without ego. If he were, he would not be a four-time All-Star. And he surely would not be so swaggeringly confident that every jump shot he takes, no matter the conditions or whether he has missed nine in a row, is destined to drop through the net.

Thompson, 28, has a keen awareness of his interests, and being individually celebrated for basketball is nowhere near the top of his list. Despite the bon vivant lifestyle conveyed through social media, his hoops motto is not “look at me” but “look at us.”

So when Thompson becomes a free agent next July -- unless he agrees to a prior extension -- he isn’t the type to shop himself with designs on being “that dude.” Those emotionally attached to the Warriors can take comfort when Thompson says, as he did a few days ago, that he wants to be a Warrior “for life.”

Thompson’s father, Mychal, whose NBA career lasted 13 years, took it step further.

“You can mark it down,” Mychal Thompson said over the weekend.

This is in accord with what I was told in a conversation with Mychal last month. In multiple chats over the past year, he has been firm in his belief that his son would re-sign with the Warriors.

It’s in line with what Klay told NBC Sports Bay Area last Sept. 29, saying he wanted to be a part of a group that could “be known as one of the greatest teams of our era.”

As Thompson’s incumbent team, the Warriors have the advantage. They can pay him more than any other team might offer. And he is amenable to taking a discounted contract -- though discounted only so much.

The Warriors have given every indication they understand Thompson’s value, which goes beyond the tangible. He has played for two NBA coaches, Mark Jackson and Steve Kerr, both of whom concluded Thompson requires zero maintenance. That attribute, folks, is rare and precious.

Growing up the middle son in a NBA household, Klay was taught to appreciate collective success. When he says he doesn’t take the prosperity of the Warriors for granted, as he often does, he means it.

Growing up between two athletic brothers, Mychel and Trayce, Klay learned teamwork in a very real sense. Julie Thompson is more reticent than her husband Mychal -- as is 99 percent of the world’s population -- but is, above all, a voice of reason. When she speaks, the family listens.

Since being drafted in 2011, Thompson has made six trips to the playoffs in seven seasons, missing only as a rookie.  Of those six consecutive playoff appearances, the last four have landed the Warriors in the NBA Finals, with three championships to show for it. He has been the physical backbone of the squad, missing the fewest games and excelling on both offense and defense.

Thompson has had, by any measure, a charmed career. He knows this would not be true if not for the contributions of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Andre Igoudala, Shaun Livingston and a couple dozen others who wore the same jersey.

So when it’s time to put a name in big, bold letters atop the marquee, Klay would be the last Warrior to care. He doesn’t want it, partly because he doesn’t like it but mostly such trivialities give him no gratification.

Nah, he’d rather ride this wave for as long as it’s going.

Mychal Thompson wants Klay to emulate James Harden in one aspect in 2018-19

Mychal Thompson wants Klay to emulate James Harden in one aspect in 2018-19

Klay Thompson is a well-rounded, versatile player. He shot 52.6 percent from 2-point range last season. He shot 44 percent from 3-point range. He made 83.7 percent of his free throws. He averaged 2.5 assists per game. He's the Warriors' best perimeter defender.

There's not a noticeable weakness to his game.

But his father Mychal spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle's Scott Ostler on Saturday to talk about what kind of differences we'll see in Klay will be during the 2018-19 season and he shared the goal he's set for his son.

"I think you'll see a hungrier player. He's going to try to get more versatile, try to get to the basket a little more, more free throws, being more efficient on offense that way. I always tell him, try to make it a goal to shoot eight (free throws) a game. Eight or 10, like James Harden does," Mychal Thompson told Ostler.

Thompson attempted a career low 1.3 free throw attempts last season. His high-water mark was 3.3 free throw attempts per game during the 2014-15 season. By comparison, Harden attempted 10.1 free throw attempts last season and has surpassed 10 attempts per game in five of the last six seasons.

Of course, the elder Thompson was asked about his son's free agency next summer. Klay told the Bay Area News Group on Saturday that he wants to remain with the Warriors for the rest of his career. His father said the same thing at the Thompson Family Foundation's charity golf tournament on Saturday.

“Oh yeah, you can mark it down. Klay’s going to retire in the Warriors’ uniform. He’s going to play at Chase Center (the Warriors’ new arena, opening in 2019), and he’s not going to be at Chase Center as a visiting player, he’s going to be a Warrior for the next seven or eight years," Mychal said according to The Chronicle.