Zach Lowe defends Klay Thompson against Charles Barkley with epic rant

Lowe defends Klay with epic rant, baffled by Barkley's remarks originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

After answering questions from reporters for nearly six minutes following the Warriors' 123-110 win over the Miami Heat on Thursday night at Chase Center, Klay Thompson used the last 90 seconds of his availability to fire back at Charles Barkley for recent comments the Hall of Famer made.

Thompson concluded his statement by saying "I'm just going to keep going and I'm going to have a great year. You can bet on that."

That bet on Thompson is one ESPN NBA analyst Zach Lowe is willing to take.

Lowe defended Thompson Friday with an epic monologue on "NBA Today" with host Malika Andrews and fellow analysts Chiney Ogwumike and Tim Legler.

"I absolutely loved it," Lowe said. "And not just because it was raw and honest and very Klay. We all love when players are raw and honest. It's what Tim [Legler] said about the end of the quote. 'Bet on that. Bet on me' and I would bet on Klay Thompson. He ended the monologue by saying, 'Forget all the noise. I am going to be the same player again.' And that's what you have to love. And I'm with Klay.

"I have been baffled -- baffled -- since the day he came back about how many people are nitpicking his game, looking for, 'Oh, he got blown by over there.' Or, 'Oh, he's not shooting as well over here. He's not the same guy.' This guy tore his ACL and then he tore his Achilles, the second of which is the most devastating injury a basketball player can suffer. And maybe I'm just crazy and I hallucinated that he averaged 19 points a game in the playoffs and shot 39 percent from 3 on a ton of attempts, most of which are contested because he's Klay freaking Thompson on a team that won the championship, won the championship.

"Klay Thompson is tough as hell. He's a legend and considering what he went through and what those injuries are, I think he has, from Day 1, not just in the Finals, not just now, exceeded what could be reasonably expected of him based on those injuries and I'm betting on him to continue to exceed it."

A visibly frustrated and angry Thompson was responding to remarks Barkley made Tuesday night after the Warriors were blown out by the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center.

Thompson didn't play particularly well against the Suns -- a continuation of his early-season struggles -- and was ejected after jawing with Phoenix star Devin Booker.

After the game, Barkley criticized Thompson and Draymond Green, noting that they were getting older, their games were starting to slip and that Thompson wasn't the same player as he was before he suffered two devastating lower leg injuries in 2019 and 2020.

"I've got one thing to say," Thompson said Thursday. "So, it hurts when someone like Charles Barkley, with the platform that he has, says you're not the same player prior to the injuries you had. It's like, 'No, duh, man.' Consecutive years, like. I tore my ACL and Achilles in consecutive years and still helped the team win a championship. It hurt hearing that because I put so much freaking effort to get back to this point. It's hard to even put into words what I had to do to be the player I am today.

"I played 55, 57 games in three years. Give me some freaking time to get that back. To hear someone say, 'Oh, he's not the same player as he was prior to the injuries.' Like, duh. Who goes through that and comes back ... I don't know, it just hurt my heart hearing that. But you know, I'm going to internalize it and it's going to be fuel for me to be even better. I'm very proud of what we accomplished last year and I feel like I was a huge part of it. I'm not going to let these injuries be a crutch for me. I'm just going to keep going and I'm going to have a great year. You can bet on that."

Steph Curry even entered the fray, taking his own shots at Barkley after the Warriors' win Thursday night.

Thompson spent 941 days away from the game he loves, rehabbing for two and a half years. There were many dark days for the five-time NBA All-Star, some private and some public.

But Thompson persevered, returned Jan. 9 to a hero's welcome and helped the Warriors capture their fourth NBA championship in eight seasons.

Late in the offseason, he admitted he didn't play any pick-up basketball over the summer -- a regular activity for most NBA players -- due to the mental block from having suffered his torn Achilles during a pick-up game on Nov. 18, 2020. In a slow ramp up to the season, Thompson only played in one preseason game and has been on a minutes restriction so far, though he played 29 minutes against the Heat.

RELATED: Why Klay has respect for Booker despite chirping Suns' star

Thompson has been back playing basketball for just about 10 months. He simply needs time to get back to the player he was. He knows that and so does Lowe.

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