Why Klay Thompson had early Warriors 'championship or bust' mindset

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Klay explains early 'championship or bust' mindset for Dubs originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The calendar hadn’t even flipped to 2022 and Klay Thompson was still in rehab, but he was already defining the Warriors’ season as “championship or bust.”

Five weeks into the season in mid-November, the Warriors had just improved to 15-2. Thompson, who wouldn’t make his triumphant return until January, told reporters that even though he was watching from the bench, Golden State was the “type of team where it’s championship or bust.”

As Steph Curry called him, “Prophet Klay” may turn out to be exactly right, with the Warriors galloping through the Western Conference bracket and into the NBA Finals for the sixth time in eight years.

On Wednesday, Thompson was asked why he made that prediction so early in the season.

“I made that observation because we started 18-2,” Thompson told reporters. “That’s an incredible start. I wasn’t even in the lineup yet. We weren’t even whole. So, I just envisioned us as all the pieces of the puzzle together and I thought we could attain greatness.”

The Warriors would fade from that torrid win pace to start the season, as Thompson himself struggled at times to get back into a rhythm following two years off an NBA court. But Golden State was good enough to maintain the third seed in the West, and then the formula clicked in the playoffs.

Thompson has had some notable closeout performances so far, from the return of “Game 6 Klay” against the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round to a 32-point Game 5 outing against the Dallas Mavericks in the conference finals to help the Warriors eliminate both teams and reach the NBA Finals.

The 32-year-old Thompson has seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows throughout his NBA career, but in the present, he’s back on the biggest stage for the sixth time.

“To be back for a sixth time, it’s incredible,” Thompson said. “It’s incredible just saying that. I never really thought that was a possibility my rookie year. It’s just great. I’m just going to enjoy every second of this and play as hard as I can, and you can walk away with no regrets.”

Related: Klay recalls 'welcome to the NBA' moment involving Celtics

Still, Thompson knows as well as anyone how heartbreaking it is to get to the championship and fall short. In an interview with ESPN’s Malika Andrews, Thompson pointed to the 2016 collapse to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the 2019 NBA Finals, where he suffered a devastating torn ACL in Game 6 before the Toronto Raptors eventually closed out the Warriors at Oracle Arena.

“A lot of us don’t look back on 2019 and 2016 with great reverence,” Thompson said. “We kind of look back on it with a little more pain in our eyes and a little heartache because we know how hard it is to lose a Game 7 in the NBA Finals or a Game 6. So we want to win the last game of the year. That does mark a great season, obviously. But if we lose, it was still a good season – but it wasn’t great.”

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