What Kevin Durant's arrival means for Klay Thompson

Shams Charania of The Vertical
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4892/" data-ylk="slk:Klay Thompson">Klay Thompson</a> is one of three Warriors on Team USA. (Reuters)
Klay Thompson is one of three Warriors on Team USA. (Reuters)

Past 8 a.m. on the Fourth of July, Klay Thompson’s older brother had struck his room door open. Those around the Golden State Warriors star know his tranquil demeanor, his comfort in serene locations. Kevin Durant’s commitment to the Warriors had altered the course of the NBA and forever changed the franchise, and the player whose role could be most impacted persisted in his most unguarded and careless position.

“I was sleeping,” Thompson told The Vertical, “and my brother came to my room and woke me up to tell me that KD committed. I didn’t believe it at first when he told me, so I had to check my phone and verify it. I was like, ‘Seriously? KD really chose us?’ It was an incredible moment for our organization, and I was psyched. We had the final form of our team.

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“And then I went back to sleep.”

Yes, that’s Klay Thompson. He’s one of the NBA’s best shooters on a roster containing arguably the all-time shooter – yet he’s a calm soul, designed to play basketball, lounge on a beach and spend time around his family and friends. If anyone has the temperament for the give and take of minutes and shots on these Warriors, it’s Thompson. They have assembled four All-Stars in their prime, prompting Thompson’s friends to ask him: How many shots do you give up to KD now? “I’ve been hearing it on every stop,” he says, sitting at a Team USA practice.

The Warriors plan a starting lineup of Stephen Curry, Thompson, Durant, Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia, and Golden State players understand the allure of this championship contention for veterans around the league – such as Pachulia – to reject more lucrative offers elsewhere. This all became possible through the recruitment of Durant with Thompson, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala selling a potential dynasty.

When Thompson looks back on his visit to Durant in the Hamptons before Fourth of July weekend, a clear message resonated: Every championship roster has players sacrificing. Their individual games didn’t.

Draymond Green (left) and Klay Thompson (right) both helped recruit Kevin Durant. (Getty Images)
Draymond Green (left) and Klay Thompson (right) both helped recruit Kevin Durant. (Getty Images)

“I feel kind of disrespected that people keep using the term sacrifice to describe me and describe us,” Thompson told The Vertical. “We all want to see each other do well. But I’m not sacrificing [expletive], 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.

“The NBA season can get mundane; 82 games are so long and there can be some boredom. Now, we can embrace being the hated team and getting everyone’s best, and adding some tension every night. It’ll be a fun experience going into arenas on the road, with opposing fans hating what we’ve built.”

For now, everyone will closely examine the engagement of these Warriors. Their body language on the court, their verbal responses in between games. Personnel around the NBA wonder about the disposition of the volume scorers in Durant, Curry and Thompson, on nights when one is limited to six shots or limited to four 3-point attempts instead of 12.

Durant sat on the opposite end of Thompson courtside after a recent U.S Basketball practice, and vows that he wants them all to stay true to their aesthetics. Be Klay. Shoot off kick-outs, off the dribble, off screens. Be Klay.

“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.”

Klay Thompson says he won’t have to change his game to fit Kevin Durant. (Reuters)
Klay Thompson says he won’t have to change his game to fit Kevin Durant. (Reuters)

Three years ago, Thompson had entered the then-coaching staff’s office in training camp, posed with the possibility of filling a sixth-man role. The Warriors considered avenues to increase their bench scoring, and Thompson had conceded to the direction of the coaching staff. It ultimately never was even experimented, and the accolades – two All-Star appearances, a 3-point competition title – and one championship followed for him.

“Even back then, it never mattered to me about starting, coming off the bench or scoring 12, 15 or 20 points,” Thompson told The Vertical. “This league can get caught up in scoring, and caught up in the stars. I’ve really just wanted to keep the Bay a winner – we all do.”

One of the most potent shooters basketball, one of the leaders of today’s powerhouse NBA roster, Klay Thompson laid asleep in his room the morning of July 4. Kevin Durant had made a transaction that changed the course of the league, and soon the text messages were punched into Thompson’s phone about his role. How will your game change now? He had gone to the Hamptons, to pursue Durant’s mindset and role on the Warriors. Adjustments will be made, but not toward changing my game, Thompson says.

“I wouldn’t have flown to New York when we met KD if it was about sacrificing,” Thompson told The Vertical. “We knew what we wanted to do, and we talked it out.

“We want to do something historic.”

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