SAN FRANCISCO – After experiencing rust with his shooting, conditioning and timing in 32 regular-season games and one NBA championship run last season, Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson has expressed optimism about his health and game .
“I expect to play at the All-Star level again and hopefully become an All-Star,” Thompson told NBA.com
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Thompson was “not ready to play big minutes” beginning with the team’s season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday at the Chase Center (10ET, TNT) after playing in just one preseason game. But neither Kerr nor Thompson expects to face as many restrictions as last season after being sidelined with season-ending injuries to his left knee (2019-20) and right Achilles tendon (2020-21).
After returning nearly halfway through the 2021-22 season, Thompson averaged 20.4 points at just 42.9% from the field and a career-low 38.5% from 3-point range. As for Thompson’s ninth NBA season? Kerr predicted Thompson “as a great two-way player,” meaning “guarding one of the opponent’s best wings and being one of the great shooters in the world.”
Thompson spoke to NBA.com about his expectations for the 2022-23 season, last season’s return and his training schedule. Thompson also addressed Draymond Green’s recent fight with Jordan Poole over a contract extension and his off-season travel.
Editor’s Note: The following 1-on-1 conversation has been condensed and edited.
NBA.com: How are you feeling physically?
I feel great. i am very healthy i’m in shape I’m excited and mentally refreshed. I’m so excited to see what the year brings.
What was your off-season work?
A bunch of individual work. Work on my jump shot, holds and defensive slides. I’ve been in the weight room a lot. Doing that for three to four hours every day felt so good, especially compared to the last two offseasons with a lot of rehab and strength building with knees and hamstrings. Being able to work on my game and being free in my body never comes naturally to me again. It was a great off-season.
How did you weigh the pros and cons of not playing 5v5 in the offseason?
We played until June 18th and I started again on July 10th. That gave me 2 1/2 months of really solid work. Although I haven’t played 5–on-5 I still felt better. I wanted to do that in front of our coaching staff. When they gave me the OK to play 5v5, my confidence skyrocketed. The last time I didn’t do it in front of them, it didn’t end well. I don’t want to climb that mountain again.
How do you rate your game last season?
I’m a perfectionist. I think my shooting splits will be higher this season. Finding my legs was a big challenge. But I thought I was peaking at the right time. Even though I was inconsistent in those 32 regular-season games, I thought I had a great run in the playoffs. I wish I had shot the ball better in the final (17 points per game at 35.6% shooting overall, 35.1% from deep). At the same time, I made big shots when it counted most. I was there when my team needed me the most. I give myself an A for what I had to fight through to get to this point. To become the second top scorer of a championship team after a 2 1/2 year break? I couldn’t ask for a better result.
What do you expect this season?
I expect to play at All-Star level again and hopefully become an All-Star. In the beginning I have a minute limit. So I’ll try to be as efficient as possible in those 20 minutes. I expect to start playing starter minutes again within the next few weeks. I expect to be great with all the training I’ve had and all the experiences I’ve had over the last year. I’ll be retired mid-season so I’m expecting a really good year.
Kerr added he expects you to be a two-way player again and be able to defend top wingers. What do you think about that?
I am grateful to Andrew [Wiggins]. That makes my work a lot easier. His job is always to protect the best player. I can do that in spurts, but I plan to be a very impactful player on both sides of the ball. Most importantly, I intend to have fun. To have a chance to win five [NBA championships] is never something I imagined as a beginner. I’m just so excited to enjoy every day of being an NBA player. I’m not 21 anymore. I’ll be 33 this season. I know I can’t do this forever. No matter how long I have left, I will embrace and enjoy every single day. Unfortunately, we are not musicians or actors who can do all this forever. We gotta suck it up while we can.
How did you view Draymond’s fight with Jordan and how did you deal with it afterwards?
It was unfortunate. Violence is never the answer to anything, especially between teammates. But we’re moving past it. We spoke to both players as a group about understanding what needs to be done to repair this relationship. We know that victory heals everything and that Ring Night will help ease the pain of a tough few weeks.
I love these two guys. Draymond is my brother. We’ve been through everything together. JP is like my little brother. I want the best for her. I am very pleased that JP has been renewed. He deserves it. To see where he came from his rookie season and now the future of the franchise is special. I know Draymond and I have so much left in the tank, not just this year but for years to come. We all love each other. We’re not the dubs without one of them. We need both to get where we want to go.
How do you wrestle with the possibility that this season could be the final run with the whole core?
I don’t want to believe it, but Draymond has a player option next year. You never know what will happen. Whether it is or not, we must think about what we can do to repeat it, because that in itself is such a difficult task and such a great opportunity. To have a chance to get five [titles] with Draymond, Steph and Andre [Iguodala] is a crazy, crazy thing to contextualize. I’m super excited to get this season going.
Have you and your sales reps spoken to the front office about signing an extension yet? [Thompson has two years left on his contract]
I haven’t spoken to the front desk about this.
How do you think this will go?
I’ll just do what I have to do to be the best I can be every day. I’m going to be a great player. I know what I’m capable of. I expect to get another NBA contract, whether this summer or next. I am fully confident in my abilities. I’m not worried about an extension in the meantime because I know it will happen if I just do my job and just be myself.
James Wiseman said you helped him cope with his ongoing injuries. What was your message?
Embrace being young, being in the NBA and being on a great team. Focus on your craft and develop your mind. Appreciate how far you’ve come and what your future holds if you do the work. i love james He really wants to be great. That’s what you love about a young player. He’s not in love with the limelight or the lifestyle that comes with being an NBA star. He just wants to be a great NBA player who is considered one of the greatest warriors.
Training aside, how did you enjoy your offseason?
Traveling a bit and seeing my family, especially in the Bahamas. Because of the pandemic, I couldn’t see her for three years. It was a lot of fun going there and seeing my brother [Trayce] play in the MLB playoffs. I went to San Diego [earlier this week]. Even though the Dodgers lost, he had a great year and that’s something to build on next year. But it was special to see him out there during the playoffs. It was the icing on the cake with the great off season we had.
What will you remember most after seeing your brother in that moment?
I just appreciated seeing him in midfield starting for the Dodgers. I really appreciated seeing him score a base hit and make an incredible dive catch. I was locked in every pitch. I have to give credit to the Padres. Their crowd was incredible. It hurts to see them lose such an amazing season. Your future is great. Baseball is tough. It’s harder to read than basketball. But seeing Trayce in the outfield was so surreal. I know how hard he worked to get to this point. I was so grateful he had the opportunity to feel what a playoff series is like.
What were the highlights of your Bahamas trip?
My family see boating and scuba diving. The waters of the Bahamas are the best in the world – it’s the clarity of the water, the fish and the ecosystem. I got to swim with a few reef sharks. That was super cool. I dove all the way to the bottom at 40ft and had a bottom time of about 30 seconds. As a freediver, I was very impressed with myself, so I gave myself a pat on the back. I feel rejuvenated every time I come home from the islands.
What about your Europe trip?
I went to France and Italy. That was so much fun. I was allowed to visit the Colosseum and the Sistine Chapel [in Rome]. I have to see the Amalfi Coast. It was the trip of a lifetime. It was cool to see the Colosseum. What do we do in an arena and then see Rome and its love of sport and competition that goes back thousands of years? The context is special. The fact that we are doing this now has brought me a lot of gratitude.
I also bought a fedora [hat] in Rome. Who would have thought I could turn into Michael Jackson. That was such a special day. It was one of those days when it felt like your hard work was paying off. I will try to have more days like this next summer. But that comes with running back.
What was it like taking on a sumo wrestler during the Warriors’ preseason trip to Japan?
“He’s too- I can’t… Nah, he’s too strong.”
-Klay Thompson is dating the pro sumo wrestler 🤣pic.twitter.com/8cTobxl81q
— Warriors Nation (@WarriorNationCP) September 29, 2022
He was like a tree stump. He was an immovable object. It was cool to see these guys and how they train. The training program they run is centuries old. The culture of Tokyo was very strong. It was cool to see a different part of the world and see our Japanese fans wearing Warriors uniforms. It was surreal. You can tell how far the brand has grown.
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Mark Medina is a Senior Writer/Analyst for NBA.com. You can email him here, find his archive here, and follow him on twitter.
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