The Warriors’ current season has been … a bit too eventful.
Superstar Stephen Curry led Golden State to a scorching start, which was somehow doused after Curry broke the NBA’s all-time mark for career 3-pointers made. Once owners of the NBA’s best record, Golden State is now fighting for the No. 3 seed in the West. The starting lineup has changed an astonishing 26 times due to influx of youth, choppy play in general, and injuries to some of the Warriors’ biggest stars.
Curry’s current injury has the team scrambling. Forward Draymond Green’s back injury has been a huge issue as well. But the largest injury of them all (with respect to center James Wiseman) is an injury that’s still healing — mentally, that is.
Guard Klay Thompson’s return after missing two-plus seasons with major injuries has been a shot in the arm at times and at others, it’s been a distraction, if you ask me, both on and off the court. With so much attention (rightfully) paid to Thompson and his comeback, the Warriors miss the old Klay — who was perhaps the most low-maintenance superstar in the NBA’s recent history.
The Warriors are at their best when Thompson can lay low and be, arguably, the No. 1 “3-and-D” player in the NBA without making a fuss about it.
Recently, every time Thompson is on the court, he has the spotlight on him. Can he be his old self? And then fade into the relative background, as he did during Golden State’s dynastic run last decade? In a Warriors loss to the Hawks on Friday, Thompson played a season-high 40 minutes after experiencing a bit of “déjà vu,” and maybe we’re about to witness the return of the low-maintenance superstar Thompson has been when he’s truly himself.
Because Thompson also had 37 points and nine made 3-pointers, thanks to that déjà vu.
Here he is talking about a feeling he had last year in Atlanta when he was still rehabbing his torn Achilles tendon. He told reporters he had a sense a big game was in the works thanks to his timely recollection.
“Honestly, I kind of did because this is such a vivid memory for me last year when I was here and I was rehabbing,” Thompson said. “I was in the hallway and the team was going through a similar type of slump where things may not have been going our way and it felt like such déjà vu and it made me so appreciative of being here and being healthy and being able to play and seeing all the Warriors fans.
“It kind of relaxed me, too, because you know I press, I’m probably my biggest critic. And when I felt that I was like, wow, I pat myself on the back. My gosh, that was a lot of work to get to this point and I’m just grateful.”San Francisco Chronicle
Here’s more from Thompson. He says the game was a milestone to build on.
For Thompson, building on this performance means he can perhaps finally stop worrying so much about whether he can be his old self. He can play a bit more within the confines of coach Steve Kerr’s motion offense — and perhaps even defer a bit to G Jordan Poole, much as he would, to an extent, with Curry.
Because Thompson is at his most deadly when he plays with no worries. It’s asking a lot — his injuries were an enormous physical and mental speed bump to an amazing career. But this could mark the return of perhaps the greatest low-maintenance superstar the NBA has ever seen, and one of the players — and personalities — that makes the Warriors one of the greatest teams of all time.