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Steve Kerr reveals the secret to Klay Thompson’s bench success


The Warriors enter Sunday’s action undefeated when Klay Thompson comes off the bench.

SAN FRANCISCO — Klay Thompson celebrated coming off the bench for the first time in 12 years with his best game of the season, catching fire on the Utah Jazz as the Golden State Warriors surged into the All-Star break. He hasn’t been quite that dynamic in his new role since the season resumed, scoring just three points on nine shots in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers then dropping a more efficient 13 points in another victory lowly Charlotte Hornets.

Don’t mistake Thompson’s relative lack of production for any newfound discomfort as the Dubs’ sixth man, though. As Steve Kerr detailed before Sunday’s matchup with the defending-champion Denver Nuggets at Chase Center, the 34-year-old’s updated perspective on his place with Golden State continues paying dividends for both player and team.

“He’s been great. His approach feels so much better than it was even a few weeks ago,” Kerr said of Thompson. “This has been an emotional season for him, you guys know this. He’s been grappling with his mortality in some ways as an athlete. He knows how good he was six years ago and he’s had a hard time reconciling everything after the injuries. The thing that we keep trying to convince him of is he’s still a hell of a player. But he’s at his best when he’s not pressing, and he’s not stressed out, worried about trying to be the guy he was six years ago. I think coming off the bench has maybe helped in that regard. I just notice he’s more relaxed, his approach, his leadership in the locker room, it feels different, and I think he’s starting to get more comfortable with the role but also just kind of the bigger picture stuff that has been bothering him.”

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Klay Thompson is comfortable in new role with Warriors

The Warriors' Klay Thompson shared his latest thoughts on rookie Brandin Podziemski

Eyebrows raised across the league on February 15th, when rookie Brandin Podziemski was a surprise replacement for Klay Thompson in the starting five as the Dubs faced off with the Jazz. The future Hall-of-Famer responded by turning back the clock, exploding for a season-high 35 points and seven triples despite failing to score in the fourth quarter.

After the game, Thompson invoked San Antonio Spurs great Manu Ginobili—the best sixth man in NBA history—as inspiration behind his acceptance of coming coming off the bench.

“More importantly I realized I’m gonna play a lot of minutes. So you have to let the ego go when you think about coming off the bench,” he said. “I thought of Manu Ginobili, that guy has four rings and a gold medal and he came off the bench his whole career.”

Acknowledging inevitable consequences of time, age and physical wear-and-tear has been a driving force behind Golden State’s midseason turnaround. It’s not 2022 anymore, let alone 2018.

Thompson, like Kevon Looney, has entered a different stage of his career, but hardly means he can’t be an impact player—even when shots don’t drop. Though Thompson never found his jumper in Thursday’s win over the LeBron James-less Lakers, he still effected winning by drawing two defenders and finding rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis on rolls to the rim, finishing with five assists, no turnovers and a positive plus-minus.

Expect Thompson to contribute in a similar fashion for the Warriors going forward, leveraging the imminent threat of his shot to create easy looks for teammates. Just don’t forget that one of the best shooters of all-time remains fully capable of setting nets ablaze, too.

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About the Author

Jack Winter is a veteran NBA writer and editor based on the West Coast. He currently lives in Oakland, covering the last legs of the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty.


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