Klay Thompson has not been his vintage self to start this season. Not that anyone should have expected him to be at age 32 and having missed two full seasons with a torn ACL and then torn Achilles.
But he’s also not the guy he was last playoffs — he shot 38.5% on 3-pointers in the postseason last year, 33% this season. His shooting inside the arc is down almost 10 percentage points. The advance stats back this up, Thompson has struggled to start the season. That has led to criticism of him — most prominently from Charles Barkley (“he’s not the same guy”) but also plenty of others — and calls from some fans to bring him off the bench and start Jordan Poole.
Thompson has seen that as a lack of respect, and he’s grown frustrated this season — you could see it when he got ejected for jawing at Devin Booker. Thompson was more explicit about that speaking to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report when asked why he was responding to pundits now when he used to ignore them.
“Yeah, that’s true, but I feel like I deserve more credit for battling through all that injury s***” Thompson told B/R. “I helped a team win a championship last year and people still want to discredit what you do.
“You know what I’ve learned about that? You just can’t please everybody. But for myself individually, it’s about rediscovering that form of efficiency and that two-way play that made me great. And I feel like I’m well on my way there.”
The Warriors have been patient, but they got off to a slow start because their defense hasn’t been sharp, because Jordan Poole stumbled out of the gate this season as well, and because the youngsters they were leaning into for depth — Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and James Wiseman — have struggled in their larger roles. It’s left a lot on the plate for Stephen Curry, who has played at an MVP level.
“It’s a lot different,” Draymond Green said. “For the most part, coming off the bench, we’ve had an elder statesman [in years past]. Someone who would come off the bench, slow things down, and right the ship. It’s different now.”
Still, this is the Warriors. The defending champions with their core six intact. Nobody is reaching for the panic button. Get this team healthy and to the playoffs and they can repeat.
But to get there healthy means Thompson needs to find that better version of himself, Green and Poole need to be at their peaks, and the Warriors need to find the depth not to wear out Curry. It’s just 14 games into the season, Thompson and the Warriors have earned a little more patience.
But they have to figure it out relatively soon because they don’t want the most difficult path through the postseason in a deep West. That may be too much, even for them.