Klay Thompson isn’t much of a talker, especially not to the media. He’s a nice guy who will give an interview if you ask him in person. But he’s not volunteering to be anybody’s spokesperson.
Which is why when I texted him to ask for an interview, and he immediately responded in the affirmative, I knew he was feeling good.
Why? Because he fulfilled on of his goals of playing for Team USA. After winning gold with the under-19 squad at the 2009 FIBA World Championships, Thompson set out to play with the men’s national team. And Friday night he learned he was one of the 12 players selected to represent their country in the FIBA World Cup in Spain, which starts Saturday.
All-Star guards Damian Lillard and John Wall didn’t make the team. But Thompson did. Along with his Splash Brother, Stephen Curry. That’s a big deal.
“This is crazy,” said Thompson, who was taking a break from packing and on his way to lunch in New York City. “In my mind, I was going to make it no matter what. For what I can bring – the ability to spread the court and guard 1 through 4 in international basketball, and I’ve practiced on getting into the lane a lot – I was expecting to make it. I thought our first game in Brazil, I was a little rusty. But the last couple games, I think I played really well.”
Coach Mike Krzyzewski has gotten to see firsthand a big reason new Golden State head coach Steve Kerr and the Warriors don’t want to lose Thompson this NBA offseason. Coach K is using Thompson to harass opposing point guards much like Mark Jackson did. And Thompson’s teammates are finding him for open 3s on the other end. He’s grown into a pivotal weapon for Team USA.
Of course, being a productive player for Team USA, Thompson will have a much higher profile entering this season.
“I always thought people already do know who I am,” The former Washington State Cougar said with a laugh. “I want to be great. That comes with pressure. It comes with eyes on you. In Year Four, I’m looking to take a huge leap like I did last year.”
Thompson plans on making his mark as one who gets it done on both ends.
“Absolutely. One of the best ever, Michael Jordan, was one of the greatest defenders ever,” he said. “I’m not saying I am Michael Jordan. But if you want to be a championship player, you have to play both ends. We’ve got some great players in this league who are two-way players. Kobe Bryant. LeBron. Paul George. Kawhi Leonard. I’d love to be known as a guy who gets you 20 points and locks down the best offensive player.”
Thompson said he isn’t worried about playing for Team USA leaving him tired for the long season the Warriors are expecting. He’s a heavy minute guy with a big task. Conventional wisdom says he will need rest to prepare for the grueling task of chasing point guards and being a key cog to the offense.
The way he sees it, this experience will help him.
“I’m 24. I’m young. I shouldn’t be tired,” Thompson said. “I’m not playing 40 minutes. I’m playing 15 minutes, 20 minutes. It’s even better than working out at home. I would never get this competition working at home.”
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