SAN ANTONIO – There were two days until the 2011 NBA draft and a call had come into Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers informing him of a most disturbing development: Under the cloak of secrecy, the San Antonio Spurs had flown in Klay Thompson for a workout and meeting with coach Gregg Popovich.
Myers knew the Spurs had been pursuing a trade into the Toronto Raptors' fifth spot to select center Jonas Valanciunas, because Golden State had been trying to do it, too. Nevertheless, the Raptors' price remained steep and Myers' fresh fear was that the Spurs were cutting a deal to leap over the Warriors' No. 11 pick and take Thompson.
The Warriors wanted Thompson so badly, but the Spurs were lurking, and Golden State knew that Milwaukee wanted to take him at 10. All those Golden State voices in the room – the owner, the legendary consultant, the new coach, the scouting staff and, yes, the agent-turned-GM, Myers – made agreement a difficult proposition.
"Consensus was hard with our group," Myers told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday night, "but we had it with drafting Klay."
Sacramento Kings traded into the Bucks' spot at No. 10, but they wanted Jimmer Fredette. Soon, the Spurs were finalizing a deal to get to No. 15 for Kawhi Leonard.And then, draft night had come and something spectacular happened for the Warriors: The
"What had felt desperate had now become a hope," Myers said. "We had hope we could get him now."
Soon, Myers had his pathway to the perfect running mate for point guard Stephen Curry. As it turned out, the Warriors had a gateway to greatness. Curry and Thompson. Thompson and Curry. The NBA's great backcourt of tomorrow has come crashing into today.
Golden State's general manager stood on the floor of the AT&T Center late Wednesday and considered his magnificent good fortune on a most historic franchise night. Thirty straight losses here had been punctuated with the ultimate kick-in-the-groin on Monday, a biblical Game 1 collapse that left Thompson seething and blaming himself for fouling out in the final minutes.
"He was visibly shaken," Warriors coach Mark Jackson told Yahoo! Sports. "He thought he let his team down."
Thompson cared so deeply, and the Warriors knew this when they were desperate to draft him. He cared so deeply, and this turned out to be one of those nights the world witnessed it, too. The Warriors finally beat the Spurs, 100-91 in Game 2 of this Western Conference semifinals series, because Thompson wouldn't let Golden State leave without meting out retribution.
Thompson had the best game of his life – 34 points and 14 rebounds. He made eight of his nine 3-pointers. Before the half, Thompson had a surreal 29 points. After halftime, he made it his mission to control point guard Tony Parker. He shared the burden on Manu Ginobili, too. Once Thompson fouled out of Game 1, everything changed for Parker. The floor opened up with Thompson no longer forcing him to shoot contested jumpers instead of easy layups at the rim.
This time, Thompson honored the advice that his father, Mychal, forever tells him: Stay out of foul trouble, stay on the floor. He was a dutiful son, a dutiful teammate on Wednesday night.
There were no comebacks out of the Spurs, no stealing Game 2. So far, they've mostly been dominated in this series. So far, the Warriors' shooting and shrewd defensive schemes are controlling this series. Curry is the genius talent of these Warriors, but Thompson can be the Joe Dumars to his Isiah Thomas.
They stood in the corridor together late Wednesday, waiting for Popovich to finish his news conference. As the sons of Mychal and Dell, their maturity belies a 25- and 23-year-old. They didn't laugh and joke and clown. They don't make fashion statements, they don't do schtick. Off the floor, they're perfectly polite. On it, they're perfectly unstoppable.
Most of all, they know they should've come out of here with two victories, and they know the truth now: They've dominated the Spurs. The Warriors are going back to Oracle Arena for Games 3 and 4 with an expectation of destroying the Spurs.
Curry is the greatest shooting show in the sport now, a transcendent talent, perhaps a future MVP. Make no mistake, though: Thompson can get him there. He can let Steph be Steph, and complement his every strength and flaw.
Myers and Jackson believed that Thompson, at 6-foot-7, had the capacity to be a superb defender. Over the past summer, Thompson spent hours upon hours in the gym without ever touching a ball. They built his lateral quickness, his technique, his tenacity. Player development with the Warriors doesn't simply consist of a ball, a rim and a rebounder. They're developing complete players, teaching defensive principles born of Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau's system.
"I worked every day with [assistant coach] Darren Erman, and it's really paying dividends this season," Thompson said. "I'm not just a shooter-scorer."
The changing culture of these Warriors wouldn't let it happen, and that's a tribute to those visions now validated. Jackson has used Thompson on Kevin Durant and Chris Paul, Parker and Ginobili.
"He's an elite defender now," Jackson told Y! Sports. "People are catching on, because they're just starting to watch us. But right now, he's playing one of the best point guards [Parker] to ever play this game, and he's making him work for everything."
Two years ago, Klay Thompson had come out of Washington State with a well-deserved reputation for shooting the ball and receiving a marijuana citation. The Warriors researched him hard, and they knew he wanted desperately to transform his reputation and restore honor to his family name. From Joe Lacob to Jerry West, Myers to Jackson, everyone believed they had the perfect partner for Curry. Between then and now, the Warriors' dalliances in big trades – from Dwight Howard to Chris Paul – forever found teams demanding Thompson in every proposed package.
"He was the sweetener in every deal," Myers said. "Around the league, everyone knew what kind of player he is, and now the public is seeing it, too."
There are no more trade talks that will include Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. They don't need to go chasing franchise players, because they've finally arrived here.
Two years later, Bob Myers stood on the AT&T Center floor and considered those 48 hours when he feared Thompson could belong to these San Antonio Spurs. Yet, Thompson had come and gone here, and ultimately found his way to the Golden State Warriors.
As a young GM, Myers' every move has been validated, but none so sweet as the revelation of Klay Thompson. All around Myers on Wednesday night, there was owner Joe Lacob, his son, Kirk, an assistant GM, and assistant GM Travis Schlenk. All these Golden State voices, and the consensus is unchanged: Thompson's the man for the Warriors, the ideal fit for Stephen Curry.
Only now, the timetable of the takeover is starting to shift, because the NBA's backcourt of tomorrow is threatening to take over today. No more cloaks of secrecy on his trips to San Antonio. Everyone can see Klay Thompson has arrived here.
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