Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson is having a poor start to the season. It’s the worst he’s played since his rookie season. But Thompson is confident he’ll be back to peak form and is warning the “haters” out there not to bury him yet. Wishful thinking, or will he get back to the old Klay?
“You’re damn right I’ve been here for those titles,” Thompson stated to B/R emphatically. “People act like they forgot.”
Nah. Nobody forgot Klay. But the NBA is a “what have you done for me lately business.” He knows this better than anyone. Yes, he helped the Warriors win a title last season. But he was far from peak Klay.
Understandable, as he missed the previous two seasons rehabbing from a torn Achilles and ACL. It takes anyone time to get back to form after missing two years of basketball. The question is can Klay get back to his best? An All-NBA, All-Defensive, best two-guard in the game level?
At 32 and coming off those types of injuries, it’s unlikely. He can still be very good and a contributor to a championship team. But a consistent version of “Game 6 Klay” is a lot to ask.
Consider this. Before he suffered the first injury in the 2019 NBA Finals, his efficiency was starting to dip. In 2018 he posted an eFG% of 59 and a TS% of 60. In 2019 those numbers dipped to 55 and 57 respectively. Last season 53 and 55, and so far this season 46 and 47.
Thompson is shooting a career-worst 33 percent from three on almost 10 attempts per game. If you watch the games, he’s missing most shots front rim, which suggests his legs aren’t quite there yet. Understandable given the injuries and rehab he came off of. He didn’t play a lot of pickup this summer and his strength and conditioning program was different to manage the load on his legs.
“I have no doubt in my mind I’ll get back to form,” Thompson told B/R. “I was there last year. I was right there. We won a championship. And I have no doubt we’’ll get back there. The proof is in the pudding. But there’s one more thing I’ll say: You can’t take away the hardware.”
When athletes age and suffer injuries there is a toll that gets exacted on their ability to sustain excellence. They can still conjure moments of brilliance, obviously. But to do it consistently night after night gets harder and harder.
This is also the toll of playing in six NBA Finals over an eight-year period. Playing the highest intensity basketball deep into June wears on the body physically. There are only so many jumps in any set of legs.
As the Warriors and Thompson struggle in the early part of the season — all except Stephen Curry ,who is playing like an MVP — they are facing the realities of sustained success in professional sports. It never lasts forever.
Thompson has this season and next year left on his deal for a total of $83 million. If owner Joe Lacob wants to continue winning now and in the future, he will need Thompson to perform to the level of that deal. NBA history teaches us that players in their 30s coming off serious injuries rarely perform at those peak levels consistently.
Thompson is confident he’ll be back. Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. But he is right about one thing: “You can’t take away the hardware.”