It’s not often that Warriors star Klay Thompson says something that puts him at the center of discussion. The All-Star shooting guard has almost perfected the art of avoiding the provocative quote.
Not so on Monday night, when a comment attributed to Thompson made its way into a story on Yahoo’s "The Vertical" website and set off few alarms.
Addressing the addition of Kevin Durant to the Warriors, and what kind of impact he might make on his new teammates, Thompson responded thusly:
“I’m not sacrificing s---, because my game isn’t changing. I’m still going to try to get buckets, hit shots, come off screens. I want to win and have a fun time every game we play.”
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If this comes off as Thompson being selfish, it’s because that’s the general reaction to an NBA player who says he’s not going to sacrifice. It sounds as if he’s unwilling to compromise for the sake of the team.
Such a comment, taken literally, would be uncharacteristic of Thompson. He does love his shots and he has a score-first mentality. Which, along with his remarkable long-distance shooting, have made him one of the league’s best players and a member of the U.S. Olympic team that opens play Saturday in Brazil.
Thompson will, despite what he says, have to sacrifice. He’s been sacrificing and will continue to do so because it’s part of any player’s evolution. It’s also a natural result of incorporating a new teammate that has such lofty status as Durant, a four-time scoring champ and seven-time All-Star.
All three of the Warriors’ incumbent All-Stars may sacrifice personal numbers in some way, but they’ll benefit in others. Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Thompson all will have an easier time getting open looks.
Curry, who last season led the NBA in scoring (30.1 points per game), likely won’t repeat the feat. But he is almost certain have more assists and probably a higher shooting percentage.
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Green, who last season led the Warriors in rebounding (9.5 per game) and assists (7.4), could have difficulty matching those numbers. But he likely will have a higher shooting percentage.
Thompson, who last season averaged a career-high 22.1 points per game, may for the first time not increase his year-over-year scoring average. But he almost certainly will shoot a higher percentage and post more assists.
Thompson still should average 15 to 18 shots a night, just as he has in each of the past three seasons. But the quality of those shots should, on the whole, be better. The only thing he must sacrifice, and he’s smart enough to do so, is the occasional irresponsible heave.
Expect Thompson’s game to remain mostly intact, just as the Warriors would want. He doesn’t need 30 shots – his season-high was 27. He’ll still chase buckets, but they’ll be a lot easier to find.
Durant’s presence will make the game easier for Thompson, just as it will for Curry and Green and any other Warrior on the court. Because Durant is such a transcendent scorer, his unselfishness is underplayed. He enjoys making the productive pass at least as much as he does the easy bucket. One of the reasons Durant chose the Warriors is because he wants to share the scoring load.
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Thompson told The Vertical that in recent weeks he frequently is asked about he or his teammates having to give up shots, adding that he felt “disrespected” by the insinuation.
Durant apparently feels the same way.
“We want Klay to stay Klay,” Durant told The Vertical. “We don’t want him to change. The games dictate where the shots come from. I may shoot 12 shots one night; Klay may shoot eight or nine shots one night, and Steph may shoot 25 shots one night. And it could be a different flow another night.”
Given the way these four players approach the game – and their hunger for a championship – the Next Level Warriors will have to make some adjustments for each other. They did it before Durant joined them. They’ll do it now that he has.