OAKLAND, Calif. – A far cry from his brash, former basketball-playing father, Klay Thompson is perfectly content to be the soft-spoken, second superstar behind MVP Stephen Curry. He is more than happy to let Draymond Green do the arguing, arm flexing and trash talking.
Yet Thompson’s hard-nosed performances on both ends of the court all postseason are arguably the biggest reason the defending champion Warriors are back in the Western Conference finals and one step closer to a repeat title.
“He doesn’t say a lot, but he absorbs a lot. He’s all over it, he kind of sends off this vibe that he’s a little out there, but it’s the old expression ‘still waters run deep,’ something like that,” coach Steve Kerr said. “There’s a lot more in there than you think.”
Thompson, he just wants to play.
“We’ve got a huge fan base, but it’s not No. 1 on my list,” Thompson said of engaging with supporters and the media. “I just enjoy, I love playing the game.”
After he carried Golden State for much of the first two rounds, Thompson’s teammates took the pressure off with a balanced performance in Wednesday night’s 118-91 Game 2 win against the Thunder that notched the Western Conference finals at one game apiece.
Earlier in the playoffs, Thompson shared how Kerr challenged him to “channel my inner Reggie Miller” and constantly keep moving. Kerr has appreciated Thompson’s ability to drive and dish and make things happen without the ball – and he did it much of the time without fellow Splash Brother Curry, who was sidelined with ankle and knee injuries.
So, when Golden State eliminated Portland in five games last round, Kerr offered one final thing: A thoughtful shout-out to Thompson and all he has meant during this title defense.
“Klay doesn’t even want the limelight,” said Kerr. “He just likes to play and he would prefer not to do any media. I don’t think he cares at all about having his name out there or doing endorsements or whatever. In many ways he’s the perfect kind of second star on a team because of that. So Steph and Draymond get most of the attention. Klay enjoys being in the background, living his life quietly.”
His demeanor certainly isn’t like that of his former power forward father, Mychal, a No. 1 overall pick by Portland in 1978 who played 12 NBA seasons.
Thompson prefers to praise his teammates at any chance rather than discuss himself.
“We’re kind of different because he loves to talk. He loves to talk trash, he loves the camera and the limelight,” the two-time All-Star son said of his dad. “That might be from playing with the Showtime (Lakers) for a while or growing up in the Bahamas. I didn’t get that gene from him. But I’m getting better at it.”
After five games defending James Harden and five more chasing Damian Lillard, there was no getting around the attention for superb outing after outing. Thunder star Russell Westbrook is his current assignment, with the best-of-7 series shifting to Oklahoma City for Sunday night’s Game 3.
The 26-year-old Thompson is known to be funny in team meetings or elsewhere behind the scenes.
“Klay is who he is. That’s the beauty of him,” Kerr said. “It’s important because every team has kind of a pecking order, totem pole, however you want to put it, and guys need to slide into roles. There are teams where maybe you have two guys who want the attention and want the ball and maybe it doesn’t click. The personalities have to fit, just like the skills have to fit. I think that’s one of the strengths of our team. People enjoy being around one another and they are comfortable in their roles, and I think Klay is a huge part of that.”
Thompson logged 2.61 miles per game – at 4.34 miles per hour, no less – in the first two rounds while playing 36.1 minutes and taking on the scoring load in Curry’s absence.
Green has told Thompson at times this postseason to keep looking for his shot, even when the defense changes up on him or the ball doesn’t drop for the All-Star 3-point contest champion.
Thompson did just that in the Portland series, following up a playoff career-high 37-point performance in the opener with 27 points and five 3-pointers in Game 2. In fact, he had scored at least 20 points in eight straight playoff games before Wednesday.
Thompson expects the Warriors to build off Game 2, when he scored 15 points but played just less than 30 minutes, and to learn from the lack of poise they exhibited in losing the opener.
“We know what it takes to win,” he said. “It’s extremely hard.”
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