Klay Thompson’s Desert Journey

On June 13, 2019, Klay Thompson headed for the locker room tunnel. It was the sixth game of the Finals and the Warriors, down 3-2, wanted to stay alive, extend the tie, keep alive the flame of hope for the fourth ring that they have today, but which they did not achieve then. Klay faced the basket in the final stretch of the third quarter in a transition in which he had received the ball from Stephen Curry, and received a hard blow from Danny Green, who tried to block but destabilized the shooting guard in the air. He landed badly on his left knee. He broke the cross. One of the worst injuries in basketball and sports. Green quickly apologized in a move that was not expeditious and not malicious, but one that had catastrophic consequences. The star still returned from the tunnel, accompanied by a whole entourage and amid a thunderous ovation, to shoot the two free throws and reach 30 points. After that, DeMarcus Cousins ​​made a quick foul so that his partner, this time permanently, say goodbye to the Finals and the season. A sour ending, which ended with the Raptors as champions in the last game of the Warriors in the old Oracle.

Klay’s torture was even greater when, a year later and before the start of the season, he ruptured his Achilles tendon. Once again, a horrifying odyssey, an endless farce that forced him to stand still for another year. In a span of 11 months, the two worst injuries a basketball player can have. And an eternally postponed return that took place in the best possible way, surrounded by his own, in a Chase Center where he took a long time to debut and with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green (who jumped alone to honor his friend and went to the bench later with physical problems) in the starting five. Everyone was waiting for him and Klay returned, won a new ring, the fourth of the last great NBA dynasty., also in your private account; the promised title, the return of the Warriors to the top. But…

It is clear that Klay is not the same and it is what is expected after what he has suffered. And everything is excusable for him and the tremendous effort he made last year for his team.. But his physical decline is obvious and undeniable and the player is suffering a lot in this new season: his defensive wing moves, those that made him a historically good outside defender, have disappeared. Also his speed in transition or his penetration capacity. And two years unemployed, which rust anyone, are also noticeable in his field goal percentages, very weak compared to the glorious past of the player and that they suffer a lot in the triple, their most lethal weapon and that has been reduced to 38.3%, the worst figure of his career and a symptom of some Warriors adrift, aimlessly and in which only Stephen Curry has maintained an extraordinary level that contrasts with that of the rest of the squad. MVP numbers, but with the playoffs still as a distant goal (20-20, in 7th place in the West). At least for now.

From merit to difficulty

Klay had never dropped below 40% in triples until last year, when he stayed at a creditable 38.5% in his return, also making games that reminded the player who was in the splendor of the Warriors: 33 points (5 of 9 on 3-pointers) against the Lakers, 38 (with 8 of 14, 6 rebounds and 5 assists) against the Bucks or 37 (9 of 16 on 3-pointers) against the Hawks. Klay averaged, in the last three games of normal season, 36.7 points and went to 21 triples in 41 attempts combined. He reached 32 points (8 of 16 on 3-pointers) in the fifth and final game against the Mavericks; and he managed to average 17 points per night in a titanic Finals, in which he displayed an enormous defensive effort that, although it was not the same as in the past, served the Warriors to entrench themselves behind. Draymond Green’s effort, coupled with his own, once again gave Steve Kerr’s team a competitive defense. And Stephen Curry, who defended better than Marcus Smart and attacked better than anyone, was crowned with the only award he was missing: the MVP of the Finals.

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But things got complicated at the beginning of this course. Despite the Warriors starting 6-9, and 0-8 on the road, Klay couldn’t. Physically, he is far from his best level, he can’t beat his defenders and he goes to 10.4 three-point attempts per game, an abuse to score only 38%, motivated by his fear of penetrating and colliding in that way with larger bodies. bulky. The guard averaged 14.7 points per game in that first strip, the lowest figure since his year rookiesand he’s having really bad nights at pitching: 2-for-7 against the Kings, 0-for-5 on the Warriors’ disastrous night in Phoenix, 1-for-7 against the Hornets, 3-for-10 again against the Kings or 2-for-7 facing the Cavaliers. Klay has been improving, yes, until he reached 54 points against the Hawks with the help of two overtimes.

The Warriors, adrift

It is difficult to analyze the nonsense in which the Warriors find themselves. Curry is having MVP numbers (30 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists), but he is very much alone in the sky: 18.8 for Andrew Wiggins and 20.6 for Jordan Poole accompany the brilliant point guard, but things don’t work out and the team’s level drops worryingly away from home. The Warriors have become the second best team in the Western Conference while having the fourth worst defense in the entire NBA. Your pace (pace of play), the highest in the entire NBA, but it does not translate into victories because of the obvious defensive gaps that for the moment leave shameless. A fact that is also demonstrated in the rating defensive, the worst in franchise history equaled by that of 2019-20, one of those two years without playoffs that they are the only stain on the resume of a storied dynasty.

Steve Kerr has a job. Andre Iguodala has not yet debuted, Stephen Curry is 34 years old and Klay, in addition to dragging two very serious injuries, is 32. The same as Draymond Green, who has started as slow as a season ago: 7.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists, still without his usual defensive power and without transferring his acceptable statistics to his team’s game. Kevon Looney was important in the last playoffsbut it is not such a reliable support in normal season; and Poole is a target offensive talent, but he misses a lot back. Too many loose ends and, once again, a very serious problem in a defense that has lost Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. Two key men that the Warriors let go to renew with many millions a, Draymond’s punch through, Poole ( 140 in 4 seasons, an outrage) and trusting in what Jonathan Kuminga (20 years old) or a James Wiseman who has returned, but does not quite come together after a blank year and a problem in the form of a labyrinth It doesn’t help the franchise at all.

With some movement, the reaction of the second unit or a new animosity on defense, the Warriors have to wake up. In all this pairing they have also lost Mike Brown (who is doing a good job in the Kings) as an assistant, a man who had a great relationship with the players and a lot of weight in the defensive aspect of the team. But the Warriors have lost weight on that side of the court, always undervalued, and have few resources in attack beyond the displays of a Curry who tries to do everything, but without luck. Neither is that normal, nor is Draymond’s aggression against Poole before the start of the season, nor is Klay claiming his legacy against Devin Booker and taking the first technique of his career. There are nerves, tension; unsafety. very big problems although room for improvement in a very competitive West and without a clear dominator, which fortunately gives a chance for recovery. But time passes and the champion has to react. Because it is no longer enough to transform into playoffs in a machine to kill rivals… first you have to get there. And Klay, he knows, is key to it. We will see.

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