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WSU Men's Basketball

Klay Thompson shares how talk with Steve Kerr ‘changed my whole mindset’

Golden State's Klay Thompson drives past Orlando's Franz Wagner (22) and Paolo Banchero (5) on Tuesday at the Chase Center in San Francisco.  (Tribune News Service)
By Shayna Rubin Tribune News Service

SAN FRANCISCO – Klay Thompson shared a contemplative moment about his up-and-down season after the Golden State Warriors’ win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.

Amid on-court chemistry issues that team leaders say are contributing to inconsistent play, Thompson and coach Steve Kerr sat down to discuss the 33-year-old veteran’s sour mood on the bench and put his career, and his role on this team, into perspective.

“That helped me relax a lot. Sometimes I forget just how successful and how lucky I’ve been to be part of championship teams and all-star games and gold medals,” Thompson said. “And when you want to get back to that level so badly, you can get in your own way rather than forcing it.”

Thompson has been benched in crunch time twice this year due to poor shot selection and a hyperfocus on getting back to his old self that dates back to last year in his first full season since returning from ACL and Achilles injuries. Kerr, Stephen Curry and other Warriors teammates have spoken about the team’s lack of grit and collective focus as their win percentage bobs around .500.

Thompson’s frustrations have boiled over on the bench – sometimes he’s hitting chairs and visibly seething – on poor shooting nights. Tuesday, he had a judicious 15 points while shooting 6 of 11 from the field and 3 of 8 from 3.

Thompson’s expiring contract and impending free agency add some pressure for the longtime Warrior to perform. On his mind is a troubling pace in which he’s posting career lows in 3-point percentage (37.7%) and points per game (16.7).

When Thompson had similar troubles forcing shots early last season, Draymond Green had a conversation with him to simmer down and look outside of himself, inspiring the former Washington State standout to finish the year strongly. He carried the scoring when Curry was out injured and finished with a 41.2 3-point percentage and a league-best 301 total 3s. This time, it was Kerr who got in Thompson’s ear.

“I had a conversation about just enjoying the last chapter of my career and how lucky I truly am to be playing this game and doing it at a high level and being a better mentor for the young guys,” Thompson said. “Leading by example and having my energy right every game. He helped me realize I do have negative energy and how that affects the team in a poor manner.

“We had a great conversation and that changed my whole mindset and forget about shooting splits, all-star games and just enjoy being in this Warriors uniform and appreciate what we built,” Thompson added. “Because it’s such a rare opportunity for any professional athlete to be part of so much success and to try and pass that torch to the younger guys to keep this thing going.”