OAKLAND -– It’s Klay Thompson’s turn to live the Damian Lillard experience.
It was Lillard last week making his hometown playoffs debut, leading the Trail Blazers into the Western Conference Semifinals against the Warriors at Oracle Arena, less than two miles from his old neighborhood in Oakland.
It’s Thompson on Saturday bringing the Warriors into Moda Center in Portland, where he spent most of his formative years rooting for the Blazers while growing up in nearby Lake Oswego.
“We’re both playing against our old hometown teams,” Thompson told CSNBayArea.com. “It’s pretty unique. And it’s pretty cool.”
As with Lillard in Games 1 and 2 in Oakland, Thompson will have his own rooting section, dozens deep, in Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on Monday.
Klay’s parents, Mychal and Julie, met in Portland in the 1980s, when Mychal was a member of the Trail Blazers, who drafted him first overall in 1978. Though Klay was born in Los Angeles in 1990, as his father was finishing his career with the Lakers, the family moved back to Portland in 1991 and remained there until 2004.
Much of Julie Thompson’s family still resides in the Portland area.
“My grandparents will be there,” said Klay Thompson, who was 14 when the family left Oregon and moved back to Southern California. “There’ll be aunts and uncles and cousins.”
The maternal relatives will be watching a family member who has been playing especially well of late. Klay is averaging 25.9 points per game in the playoffs -– most of any player still active this postseason. He has 31 3-pointers, tops among playoff participants.
In the absence of teammate Stephen Curry, who thus far has been limited to parts of two games, Thompson has delivered on the request of coach Steve Kerr to “channel his inner Reggie Miller” and stay in constant motion.
“He has to move. He has to get the defense to bend in one direction,” Kerr said. “And we can either hit him coming off a screen or attack on the other side. He’s been amazing.
“What I’m really pleased with is his drive-and-kick game, too. It seems like every game he’s getting four of five assists, with maybe one turnover. He’s doing a good job of attacking and passing.”
Thompson, who posted a career-playoffs-high 37 points in Game 1, followed up with 27 points in Game 2. He also has a history of producing great moments in Portland.
There was the 15-point fourth quarter -– including the game-winning 3-point shot -– in a 113-112 Warriors victory at Moda Center on March 16, 2014, one day after returning from the funeral of his paternal grandfather.
There was the 29-point game, including the decisive jumper with 8.7 seconds left, on Nov. 2, 2014 – a game that included one of Thompson’s favorite dunks, going up to bang on Robin Lopez.
Maybe it’s something in the Pacific Northwest are. Or maybe it’s simply that upon returning to Portland, Thompson summons his childhood dreams and makes them real.
He grew up proud of his father, but he was a fan of the Trail Blazers of the new millennium. Portland went to the playoffs 21 consecutive seasons between 1983 and 2003.
Thompson recalls cheering for the likes of Damon Stoudamire and Arvydas Sabonis and Detlef Schrempf and, yes, even Bonzi Wells. Thompson’s favorite Blazer, though, was Rasheed Wallace.
“I just liked how he was brash and so talented,” Thompson said. “He actually lived in our neighborhood, so I got to know him pretty well. He was a pretty nice guy off the court.”
When Thompson takes the court Saturday, he’ll have to stay contained. He’ll have to avoid the trap of trying to put on a show. There have been times, after all, when he was the show anyway – particularly in Portland.