Lost in the Golden State Warriors drama of Kevin Durant’s 2019 free agency and his dustup with teammate Draymond Green is the impending free agency and season-long shooting slump of original Splash Brother Klay Thompson. Warriors fans received good news on both Thompson fronts this week.
Two days after Thompson dropped 43 points on just four dribbles against the New York Knicks, The Athletic’s Ethan Strauss reported that both the Warriors and the rest of the NBA expect Thompson to stay put in Golden State, where he and Stephen Curry laid the foundation for three championships.
At least everyone but the Los Angeles Lakers seems convinced of it. From Strauss:
While Thompson has indicated an interest in remaining a “Warrior for life,” his return cannot just be taken for granted. Still, the expectation within and outside the Warriors is that Klay isn’t leaving. This is why you don’t hear about any team besides the Lakers gearing up for the Summer of Klay.
The $69 million extension Thompson signed in 2014 is set to expire at season’s end, and the four-time All-Star would command a max contract from a number of suitors this summer. The Lakers, who have employed his father Mychal for more than two decades as a player and analyst, will be first in line.
Lakers coach Luke Walton spent time with Thompson in Qatar this past summer “in what many around the league saw as a part of a soft recruitment,” according to Strauss, and Lakers star LeBron James has shown increased public interest in his longtime adversary, shouting out Thompson’s record-setting 14 3-pointers earlier this season as well as his 43-point effort on Tuesday night. The interest is no secret.
That said, Thompson has given us no indication that he intends to leave the Warriors, doubling down this summer on his commitment to the Warriors. “I would like to be a Warrior for life,” he told The Mercury News’ Mark Medina in August, before telling everyone on media day, “When guys go into free agency, they’re searching for a situation like mine or similar to our team. I’m perfectly content here.”
For the record, Mychal Thompson has said the same, publicly declaring, “It makes no sense to leave,” before adding: “Klay wants to stay, he wants to retire as a Golden State Warrior 10 years from now.”
Still, questions will linger until he signs the max deal that ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported he will demand or the team-friendly contract that The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson II reported he might be open to.
Klay Thompson seemed annoyed by the Durant-Green dustup that could threaten the fabric of the dynasty, and Warriors coach Steve Kerr has softened from stating unequivocally before the season that this is not the last go-around for this core group to saying this week that these Warriors have “a finite term limit.” They have lost some of the joy Thompson may have been riding when he made his intention to re-sign known, but it still seems like most of the drama hinges on Durant’s decision, not Thompson’s.
If Thompson does what everyone expects and re-signs with the Warriors on July 1, the Warriors will remain contenders regardless of Durant’s decision. Should KD leave, Golden State will be comforted by the fact that Thompson and Curry still form the league’s most lethal backcourt, and together they won a title and 73 games in the two seasons prior to Durant’s arrival (granted, with more depth.)
For all the attention paid to Thompson’s shooting “woes,” which still count for 21.6 points per game, despite a 60-point dip from his career 3-point percentage (and, weirdly, nearly a 50-point dip in his career free throw percentage), there will always be reason to believe he can do more in the absence of Durant and his isolation tendencies. And within that construct now, he is shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point range on eight attempts a night since his record-breaking night on Oct. 29. Everything is fine.
Amid all the drama surrounding the dynasty, all is still chill with Klay Thompson and the Warriors.
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