Klay Thompson Finds Anthony Davis for One-Handed Alley Oop vs. Turkey

After a close first three quarters, the United States began to pull away from Turkey in their FIBA World Cup matchup on Sunday in the fourth quarter thanks to some impressive plays.

With around seven minutes left to play, Klay Thompson found Anthony Davis for the impressive one-handed alley-oop.

The U.S. won going away, 98-77.

[Vine]

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Team USA’s Klay Thompson Breaks Down the Skills That Make Him a Shooting Star

After a spirited practice at the United States Military Academy at West Point last week, Warriors sharp-shooter Klay Thompson had enough energy to break down a player far less crucial to Team USA’s hopes in Spain—mine.   

“I see you,” Thompson said in assessing this writer’s shooting form. “That’s not bad.” Still, the Warriors sharp-shooter suggested I begin my set-up a bit higher for a quicker release. Coming from one of the best shooters on the planet, I gladly listened to his advice.

Last weekend, Thompson received validation of his own game when he became one of only 12 American players in the NBA to be named to Team USA’s official roster for the FIBA World Cup, which starts on Aug. 23. In an international field of play that caters to long-distance marksmen, Thompson should be a hot hand in Spain.  

The 24-year-old guard is the portrait for the modern-day shooter. He owns the record for most three-pointers made over the course of a player’s first three seasons (545). In 2013-14, while averaging 18.4 points per game with an improved mid-range and off-the-dribble game, he shot 41.7 percent from downtown and hit 223 threes—only second to his backcourt sidekick and Team USA teammate Stephen Curry (261).

While at West Point, Thompson spoke with B/R about the tools and tricks needed to get to his level of expertise. Below are 12 shooting keys gleaned from our conversation, presented here in a first-person perspective and edited for clarity and length.

 

1. It all starts with the same pregame routine.

First, I need to make five shots from five different spots in the mid-range area. Then, I need to make three spot-up three-pointers, three transition three-pointers and one three from five spots around the arc. After that, I do a couple of pin-downs from each side and then I’ve got to make three in a row from each baseline corner. I start at the top and run to the corner. I’ve got to make six total.

I created the routine and took some things from the Warriors’ coaching staff. I used to shoot a lot more before the game, and then I went through a shooting slump last season in January. Former assistant coach Lindsey Hunter told me to cut my routine down, saying, “Don’t leave your game on the floor.” So I cut my routine in half and my shooting percentage went up in the following months. It used to be 30, 40 minutes. Now it’s 15, 20 minutes.

I don’t adjust my routine to the opponent. I try to make the defense adjust to me, rather than adjust to them. But some teams are so different defensively, like the Bulls and Grizzlies, that you’re not going to get a lot of easy touches in the paint or off the curl, so you’ve really got to work for everything you get.

I’m still open to new ideas. This Team USA experience has given me a chance to see what everyone does pregame. I saw Derrick Rose closing his eyes and controlling his breathing. He was visualizing the game. It’s been cool to see how he approaches the game and be on the floor with him, because he was once an MVP.

 

2. The key to moving without the ball and using screens is changing speeds.

I watch guys like Steph Curry, Reggie Miller and Kyle Korver. All of them are really good at lulling their guys to sleep and then sprinting off a pin-down. When you do that you either lose your defender or he’s trailing you hard and you can throw a pump fake, and he goes around you.

I’ve learned to stop, walk my defender into a screen and spin off real quick. It’s a lot about changing speeds, keeping your hands ready and staying active. I tried to pick up a lot of stuff from Kyle, who I shot with a lot with Team USA. He’s great at moving without the ball.

 

3. Reading screens is a feel thing with your defender and point guard.

I don’t predetermine whether I’m going to curl off the screen or if I’m going to flare off it. I just feel it. And I don’t really look at my defender’s feet or where he is. That’s a feel thing, too. It’s more about my personal footwork, coming off screens. If my defender is going to cheat and go over the top, I’m going to plant my foot and step back one or two feet. I also try to use my height. I’m 6’7″ and it’s tough to block my shot. It only takes me about a second to get a good look.

You’ve also got to develop chemistry with your point guard, because he’s got to read if you’re flaring off the screen or if you’re curling. Steph and I are getting good at that. We’ve played three years together now. He knows where I like the ball—on the right side of my body, right beneath my shoulder. And because he’s such a great passer, he’ll give it to me there every time.

We both think we have a lot of room to grow. I’ve never played with someone who shoots better than me, so he pushes me. Hopefully we can break some more shooting records if we just stay humble and stay together.

 

4. Sometimes you need to play a little physical with your defender to break free.

I try to get his hands off of me. It might be a foul, but you can always give a defender a little shove just to get one or two feet of space. That’s all you really need. If he’s trailing me and has to run around the screen, he’s not going to be able to get to my shot.

 

5. Long swingmen defenders are typically the toughest matchups for mobile shooters.

It used to be Andre Iguodala, but we’ve been on the same team since last year. He’s good for me in practice because he wants to guard me. Matt Barnes is pretty good at fighting through screens because he’s long. Paul George is good at it, too. Someone who’s not as tall, but is a great defender, is Tony Allen. He’s good at avoiding screens and getting back on defense.

 

6. Many half-court sets are designed for great shooters, especially because their running off screens can put an entire defense on alert.

I can’t give away all the plays, but Coach Steve Kerr has told me he’s going to implement a lot for me and Steph moving off the ball. We have a simple floppy action everyone knows. It’s just a single screen or a double screen on one side. I start under the basket and go out either way.

Sometimes we’ll audible plays. It’s not like football where you have multiple calls. If a team is going to top block me, we have a call for it and I’ll just run off the other side, moving off a screen set by the big man on the other block. Sometimes Andrew Bogut is on the weak-side block and David Lee is on the strong side at the free throw corner. Depending how the defense is playing me, I can either move off D-Lee or Bogut.

They’re both really good at setting screens, which is a bit of a lost art. A lot of times you see offensive calls where the rhythm isn’t right.

To make it work we’ve got to be patient and wait for the screen, like dribbling our guy off the big man. Old point guards like John Stockton or Mark Jackson or Magic Johnson were good at backing their man in, using the big man and then going off the screen.

 

7. Some players can get away with not being in top shape; not shooting guards.

The best shooters are in great shape, whether it’s Steph, Ray Allen or Kyle Korver. Those guys don’t stop moving. In the fourth quarter, especially, the game slows down a lot. You can’t get as many transition looks, so you’ve got to be in amazing shape.

That’s why during the season, I get a lot of reps on the elliptical machine that makes you use your arms. Sometimes late in the game when you’ve got a good rhythm, you do shoot with your arms. But you can make shots like that. It’s a lot of push-ups, a lot of pull-ups, a lot of repetition shooting. During the summer, I probably do like an hour, hour-and-a-half of shooting every day. I don’t necessarily want to get bulkier, but be in great shape.

It’s also important for me to run a couple miles every day in the offseason. And when I do my practice shooting, I try to get a lot of shots on the move because those are what I’m going to get most in the game. I’m always going to be able to stand still and shoot, but the great shooters can sprint into shots and they can back-pedal into shots.

 

 

8. Speaking of back pedaling into shots …

Those are the toughest shots in the NBA—to back pedal, and then set your feet and get your balance, especially in the corner, like the shot Ray Allen hit in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals. People think that’s an easy corner shot, but no—it’s momentum going all the way back, and then you’ve got to collect yourself and go straight up and shoot it. When I shoot, I try to plant my heels because that’s when I get my balance, and then I just explode through my toes.

My college coach Tony Bennett once told me my freshman year that when I shoot, envision water going from my toes to my fingertips in one fluid motion. All the great shooters’ shots are like a reverse waterfall—Steph, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyle Korver. They’ve all got one fluid motion—no real hitches in their shots.

I’ve always had good footwork and balance, and good feet coming off screens. I think that’s from playing multiple spots every year when I was younger, whether it was football or baseball. It all carried over. And I had a gift with the quick release. Once I grew into my body in high school, I was able to come off to an NBA three. That’s a tough shot, curling into an NBA three. Not a lot of guys can do that.

 

9. Certain non-basketball sports are helpful for improving accuracy and conditioning.

I try to do other activities to stay in shape, whether it’s tennis or golf, where I walk 18 holes. It’s exhausting. A lot of shooters are really good at golf, Ping-Pong, pool or sports like that. It helps your mental toughness because you’re going to hit bad shots.

My golf game has improved. I’m breaking 100, so I’ll take it. I play with Steph and he’s the best I’ve played with so far.

My favorite is Ping-Pong; I’ve always loved that. Paintball is fun, too. I also like to swim a lot. I love the ocean and I’ve heard it’s good for your joints. Tim Duncan swims and that guy is still playing at age 38.

 

10. While he wasn’t the most athletic, Chris Mullin is the one player every shooter should study.

Growing up, I watched Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton and Allan Houston, but there was always something special about Chris Mullin. He wasn’t athletic, but he knew how to get to his spot and he never let the defense speed him up. He made the game look so simple.

He wasn’t flashy. He just had his compact, smooth jumper, and he was one of the smartest players in the game. To average 25 a game and be slow and not athletic is an unbelievable testament to his skill and his work ethic. When he was with Golden State, he helped me a lot. He told me to get my center of gravity lower to help me explode on my shot.

 

11. Being off-balance is usually the main reason for missing jumpers.

I can tell right away why I missed. With me, it’s usually my balance, where I’m leaning to one side too much. At the start of the game, I try to get my feet set, get my balance right. But if I’m hot in the game, I’ll make those shots in the flow.

During the game, I try not to think about a miss, but you try to get an easy one, whether it’s curling to the rim or getting to the free throw line. As a shooter, once you see that ball go in once, that’s all you need. You feel like you’ve got your rhythm back.

After the game, I study film. I’ll watch it with an assistant coach, the head coach, a player—it doesn’t matter. I just like someone there to give me feedback. Sometimes you’re going to have a bad night. That’s going to happen in the NBA and you just have to accept it.

For me, shot selection is crucial, too. If I’m taking good shots, I’m shooting a high percentage. If I’m rushing my shot, taking a contested three or mid-range shot, it’s a low-percentage shot. My shot selection has gotten better each year.

 

12. The next phase for me means diversifying my scoring opportunities.

I realize how hard defenses run at me, so I’ve got to master the pump fake to draw more fouls. I saw that with Chandler Parsons on Team USA. He’s got a great pump fake and can get guys off their feet.

Once you get to your spot off the dribble, you can get defenders off balance with a quick pump fake or you can jump into them. I’ve gotten better at that, especially from the three-point line. Guys know most of the time I’m going to shoot, so I just need to give a good pump fake to get in the lane.

I’ve also been working on my floater. Steph shoots floaters and finger rolls that I’ve never seen before, so I try to watch him. His finger-roll game is crazy. I’m also getting better in the post. Coming out of college, I felt like I was ready as far as moving without the ball, and catching and shooting. But when I got to the NBA, it was getting in the lane, shooting little jumpers and finding that little pocket pass. That’s what I really had to develop, and still need to, in my career.

 

Jared Zwerling covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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Klay Thompson Ends 1st Half Against Puerto Rico with Buzzer-Beating 3-Pointer

The first half of Friday night’s exhibition game between the United States and Puerto Rico was closer than expected, but thanks to Klay Thompson, Team USA had some breathing room at the break.

With the United States leading by just two points, Thompson drilled a buzzer-beating three-pointer on the run to extend the lead to 52-47.

[Twitter, USA Basketball]

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Report: Klay Thompson ‘pissed’ Warriors considered trading him

Ric Bucher has a column up at Bleacher Report examining the aftermath of the Warriors sticking their toes in the “trade for Kevin Love” waters then deciding against jumping in. The column revolves around the notion that the Warriors were the aggressors in the talks with Minnesota all along until they ultimately decided that trading for Love wasn’t in their best interest. Meanwhile, both Klay Thompson and David Lee were left in limbo while the Warriors mulled over if they truly wanted to pull the trigger. According to Bucher, the Warriors were so serious about landing Love, they even had a trade lined up with Orlando to bring in Arron Afflalo as Thompson’s replacement. The Warriors tried to downplay their interest in trading Thompson and Lee, but it became obvious that they were seriously considering moving both and that apparently didn’t sit well with Thompson. In fact, he is said to be “pissed” about it. [Warriors GM Bob] Myers’ attempt to be as honest as possible is appreciated, b…

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Warriors’ Pursuit of Kevin Love Leaves Scars with Klay Thompson, David Lee

There is no column in an NBA box score for playing through an injury, just as there are no bonus clauses in contracts based on defensive assignments accepted to cover a teammate’s ass. It’s why such players, especially ones whose place or paycheck in the league already is secure, are to be treasured.   

The Golden State Warriors have two such players in David Lee and Klay Thompson. Two players they seriously considered dealing to the Minnesota Timberwolves this summer to acquire Kevin Love. Two players they must now convince to fill those invisible columns and ignore they were nearly sent away as a reward for their previous service.

Most probably know what Lee and Thompson have contributed to the Warriors’ recent rise to relevance, but it bears recounting for two reasons. One, because of how perfunctorily so many were willing to see them moved for Love, perhaps not fully appreciating their part in the Warriors’ renaissance.  

And, two, because it now appears they aren’t going anywhere, and Warriors management has some fence-mending to do if it wants to assure that such sacrifices and ass-covering is done with the same enthusiasm that fueled the team’s recent success.   

Two years ago, Lee played well enough to be the Warriors’ first All-Star in 16 years and help them to their first playoff appearance in six years. He played in 79 of 82 regular-season games only because he was willing to battle through a bruised knee, a sprained ankle and a sore back. He also missed one game on a suspension for shoving Pacers center Roy Hibbert. Without all that, the Warriors probably wouldn’t have seen the postseason, what with forward Brandon Rush lost for the season in the first week and center Andrew Bogut limited to 32 games.

Lee’s first career trip to the playoffs appeared to end in the first game when he suffered what the team at one point announced as a season-ending torn hip flexor. Eleven days later he was hobbling onto the court for Game 6, playing a single Willis Reedesque minute that inspired a deafening roar from the crowd and an emotional wave that contributed to a series-clinching victory.

Thompson has made similar sacrifices, including an iron-man run of playing 182 out of a possible 183 games. Despite being a 6’7″ shooting guard with one of the most textbook and trustworthy jump shots in the league, he has dedicated himself to becoming a lockdown defender. He did so well in that regard that the Warriors asked him in practically every game to guard the opponent’s biggest perimeter threat, whether that be an explosive point guard such as Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook or Chris Paul, or such elite scoring 2-guards as James Harden and DeMar DeRozan. He averaged 18.4 points and scored at least double digits in 74 of 81 games, and yet there were critics who had the nerve to question why there were nights he didn’t have his legs to score 20 or, regardless of all that on-the-ball defending, didn’t average more than three rebounds a night.

Ask any GM or scout and they’ll tell you Thompson is one of the best two-way players in the game, yet he hasn’t sniffed either All-Star or All-Defensive team recognition. To make matters worse, teammate Andre Iguodala did receive All-Defensive first-team honors last season, even though injuries left him a shell of himself and forced the Warriors to give Thompson the assignments Iguodala was expected to fill. “Klay is a much better defender,” said one former Warriors assistant coach. “It’s not even close. It’s all based on reputation and stats. The truth is, Dre is always gambling on the weak side.”

Thompson handled all of that without complaint. The reward? A summer wondering if he would be dealt to the league’s moribund Minnesota outpost.

The Warriors not only dangled both him and Lee in talks with the Timberwolves, league and team sources say, but they apparently initiated the conversation. Various reports on the deal’s likelihood of going down bubbled for several weeks, and while GM Bob Myers declined to address the subject directly, he certainly didn’t discourage the notion that Thompson and Lee were available for the right price.

“Right now, I think it’s unlikely,” Myers told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time. “Right now, today. … But I will say this: If you asked me last year at this time would we be in a situation to grab an [Andre] Iguodala, I would have said the same thing.”

League sources also say they could’ve dealt Harrison Barnes to Orlando for Arron Afflalo in conjunction with the Minnesota deal, which would’ve given them a reasonable substitute for Thompson.

Eventually, they passed on everything because there wasn’t a strong consensus in the organization that they’d definitively be better. And when it became clear that Love would be headed to Cleveland instead of a Western Conference rival, such as the Houston Rockets, it made the need to roll the dice even less enticing. 

Myers’ attempt to be as honest as possible is appreciated, but it has come with a price. While attempts to reach Lee or his representatives were unsuccessful, a source close to Thompson said the shooting guard is “pissed” that the Warriors legitimately considered moving him.

The natural refrain is, “Grow up” or “grow a pair” or, perhaps more delicately, “Hey, it’s a business. Deal with it.” Which Thompson and Lee no doubt will. They wouldn’t have had the success they’ve had without a hard-hat mentality.

But there’s a way to go about pursuing a trade that doesn’t invoke collateral damage or repercussions. First, don’t aggressively pursue one to the point it’s beyond denying and then not be willing to pull the trigger. If you’re moving players who have been good soldiers, do them a solid by trying to move them somewhere they’d welcome; otherwise, you’re sending the wrong message to the rest of your team that quiet sacrifice doesn’t really earn you anything. One executive also warned that getting right with the players’ agents after a failed trade is just as important.

Don’t misunderstand; there’s nothing wrong with the Warriors exploring a deal for Love. While one scout said his team would have a field day forcing a Curry-Love combination to defend pick-and-rolls “all day long,” another league talent expert is convinced that Curry and Love are a far better offensive combo than Thompson and Curry and that Love would’ve benefitted the entire team. “I’m way on an island with this, but I believe Love would’ve made everybody on that team better,” he said. “I just value a range-shooting 4 more. Shooting guards are replaceable.”

Where he’s not alone is also suggesting Curry and Thompson never will reach their full potential together, the premise being that Thompson never will evolve into the scorer he could be and Curry won’t be forced into carrying a heavier defensive load.

“You have to have everybody take the defensive challenge if you want to play for a championship, anyway,” said one former player with a championship ring. “Steph is ultra-competitive. If you asked him, ‘Do you want to score 25 or be a two-way player and MVP candidate’ he’d say ‘MVP candidate’ for sure. But you have to challenge him to do that.”

Perhaps new head coach Steve Kerr will do that. Perhaps Kerr can neatly evade the issue of alienation by telling Thompson and Lee that he fought to keep them, which is why they’re still with the team.

As a first-year head coach replacing one as beloved in the locker room as his predecessor, Mark Jackson, Kerr’s to-do list already is rather thick. Not losing two starters in Thompson and Lee will help the team’s continuity. Its dedication to those invisible columns? Only time will tell.

 

Ric Bucher covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @RicBucher.

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Why Klay Thompson Faces Enormous Pressure to Live Up to Superstar Billing

Whether they intended on sending the message or not, the Golden State Warriors indirectly told sharpshooter Klay Thompson they value his game more than that of three-time All-Star Kevin Love.

The Dubs’ decision was never as simple as Thompson vs. Love, but that’s how it was received by the masses. With enough people subscribing to that theory, and the time that has passed since the start of that debate, perception may well have become reality by this point.

It’s hard to pinpoint where the Warriors’ trade talks with the Minnesota Timberwolves hit a snag. Thompson’s value certainly played a part, but so too did Golden State’s other debits (David Lee, Harrison Barnes, possibly a future first-rounder) and “credits” (Kevin Martin’s weighty contract) in the transaction.

Still, the narrative took on a life of its own. Once Love’s great escape finally opened a door to somewhere other than the Bay Area, the weight on Thompson’s shoulders grew exponentially.

“No pressure, Klay Thompson, but you kinda have to be a soul-snatching backcourt murderer next season,” wrote Grantland’s Jason Concepcion. “At the very least, you need to tighten up that handle.”

Even if the idea that the Warriors picked Thompson over Love isn’t entirely correct, it’s a thought process that Thompson himself might follow. While it undoubtedly turns up the heat he’ll feel next season, it also could serve as a feather in the negotiating cap of his camp, as CBS Sports’ Zach Harper observed:

Thompson and the Warriors have until October 31 to hammer out a contract extension. If nothing comes together, the 24-year-old will be slated for restricted free agency next summer.

Whether he collects now or later, one thing seems certain: He’s about to get paid.

Those aren’t my words, either. That was the assessment of Warriors general manager Bob Myers, per Diamond Leung of Bay Area News Group:

Granted, everyone is cashing in at the moment—the ghost of Ben Gordon left this summer with a two-year, $9 million contract in hand—but Thompson is really looking to boost his bank account.

His agent Bill Duffy, according to Sam Amick of USA Today, “has been seeking a max deal in extension talks with the Warriors.”

As strange as it may sound, Thompson might actually be worth the investment, although that’s more a reflection of the market than his production.

It’s hard to make too big a fuss about Thompson getting a mini-max when similar deals were given to Gordon Hayward (four years, $63 million) and Chandler Parsons (three years, $46 million) this summer. Thompson’s three-point cannon and defensive versatility helps compensate for the fact his stat sheets aren’t quite as stuffed as the others.

The market has deemed players like Thompson worthy of that type of salary commitment, and the shooting guard’s value might be higher with Golden State than anywhere else.

He takes on the toughest backcourt defensive assignment, freeing franchise face Stephen Curry to save his fuel for the offensive end. Thompson’s ability to ease Curry’s burden put him on coach Steve Kerr’s radar before the former player-executive-broadcaster held the position.

“Klay guarded Chris Paul the entire Clippers series,” Kerr told Amick. “He has allowed Steph to conserve some energy at the defensive end, and to slide over to a shooter.”

While Curry is more than capable of handling his own at the offensive end (24.0 points, 8.5 assists last season), the All-Star starter fared even better with his brother-in-splash at his side. With Thompson on the floor, Curry was a more efficient shooter and more effective distributor, as seen in the table below, with statistics shown on a per-100-possessions basis, via NBA.com.

“Even if he costs the mini-max (starting at about $15.5M a year, in 2015-16), Thompson does things for the Warriors that they consider integral to who they are and why they can be dangerous in the West playoffs,” wrote Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News.

All of that is said to say this: Thompson doesn’t just want a max deal, he’s going to get a max deal.

That will only increase the scrutiny of his game, because he doesn’t mesh with our image of a “typical” max-contract player.

“He’s a catch-and-shoot master. He’s a good post player for a guard,” Harper wrote. “But he’s not a guy that will regularly break a player down off the dribble, which limits just how deadly he can be long-term on offense.”

Thompson is a scoring guard who needs help scoring.

For his career, 66.8 percent of his two-point field goals and 94.3 percent of his triples have come off of assists, via Basketball-Reference.com. He also struggles getting to the foul line. His 2.3 free-throw attempts average last season was the lowest of all 18 points-per-game scorers.

There are warts in his game, and fans will be quick to point them out. Right or wrong, he’ll be seen as the player who cost the Warriors a shot at Kevin Love. And if the team meets his contract demands, he’ll be sitting alongside Lee atop the Warriors’ payroll in 2015-16, per Sham Sports.

If that wasn’t enough, Golden State might need Thompson to make the leap so it can follow suit. The Warriors won 98 games over the past two seasons and still parted ways with former coach Mark Jackson. There were multiple layers to that story, but like this Love tale, a single theme was left standing at the end of it all: Good isn’t good enough.

The Warriors want to join the other NBA elites, and Thompson may have the biggest say in getting them there. Lee, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut have either hit their peak or left their best years behind them. Barnes has a long way to go after a disastrous sophomore season, and Draymond Green might have already found his niche as a supportive jack of all trades.

Thompson has room to grow and a need to push toward his ceiling sooner than later.

Through the eyes of the public, the Warriors have placed him on a superstar pedestal. The fact that perception might be a bit misguided won’t decrease the pressure he’s feeling one iota.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Tristan Thompson jumps into pool after doing Ice Bucket Challenge

As we continue our coverage of NBA players doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson is the latest to take on the challenge.
After being challenged by numerous folks, Thompson got the bucket of ice water dumped on him but added a twist to his challenge by jumping into a pool after it in the below Instagram video:

Good job taking on the challenge, Tristan!
***
Thompson image courtesy of Getty Images

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Does Shaun Livingston Signing Make Klay Thompson More Expendable for Warriors?

Shaun Livingston brings the Golden State Warriors a whole lot of what they were missing last season, but he also brings an intriguing question: What does his arrival mean for the on-again-off-again trade talks involving Klay Thompson?

First, the news, initially reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Next, the terms, also relayed by Wojnarowski: Livingston will collect $16 million over three years—with the third year being only partially guaranteed, according to Sam Amick of USA Today.

Make no mistake, Livingston is a massive upgrade over what Golden State trotted out in the backup point guard role last season. Kent Bazemore proved unready to handle defensive pressure of opponents who pounced on his inexperience, Toney Douglas couldn’t facilitate, Jordan Crawford was predictably unhinged in his shot selection and Steve Blake fell out of the rotation entirely.

Livingston is a beast of a defender, capable of handling both guard spots and most small forwards. His length, physicality and smarts make him yet another fantastic wing stopper on a Golden State roster that already has one of the league’s best in Andre Iguodala.

Slotting him into backcourt lineups alongside Stephen Curry will allow the Dubs to hide their franchise point guard on the weakest available matchup. And if the Dubs want to get particularly nasty on defense, they can put a flat-out terrifying combination of Livingston, Iguodala, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut on the floor together.

Use a folding chair as the fifth part of that five-man unit and you’ve still probably got a top-three defense.

Offensively, Livingston’s measured, pass-first game is ideally suited to maximize Curry’s catch-and-shoot gifts. Throughout his fantastic 2013-14 campaign, Curry either created his own offense or found shots for others. He rarely benefited from setups provided by his teammates.

Though we’ve beaten around the bush a bit, this seems like a perfect time to get into the impact the Livingston move could have on Thompson. After all, if we’re going to gush over the phenomenal fit between Curry and Livingston, we have to point out the suboptimal interplay between Curry and his brother in splash.

Put simply, Thompson finishes plays. To an almost comical degree, he misses Curry when he’s open. Always searching for his own shot first (which, by the way, it’s hard to fault him for), Thompson simply doesn’t maximize Curry’s potentially immense value as an off-ball option.

Perhaps you’ve heard: Curry can knock down a shot when he’s open.

Without any doubt, Livingston will enable his superstar teammate to flourish as a catch-and-shoot option far more effectively than Thompson did. And it’s hard to overstate the importance of that fact, as Curry needs the occasional off-ball break to avoid the fatigue that comes with running a million (rough estimate) pick-and-rolls per game.

Livingston, of course, has his weaknesses. He can’t shoot with any kind of reliable range, and his durability will forever remain in question because of his willowy build and grisly injury history. Granted, he’s played at least 58 games in each of the past four seasons.

But he hasn’t logged more than 26 minutes per contest in any of those campaigns.

It seems for every sign that points to Livingston making Thompson expendable, there’s another that indicates Golden State should keep its incumbent shooting guard.

On the one hand, having Livingston in the backcourt rotation would seem to make Thompson’s shooting much more valuable. The Dubs flourished last year when the game opened up and shooters had open looks, but Livingston isn’t the kind of player who keeps defenses honest on the perimeter.

You can never have enough shooting.

On the other, Livingston’s overall impact on the offense figures to be a positive one. He’ll run the second unit more effectively than anyone Golden State had last year, which should turn a bench bunch that severely disappointed into one that actually moves the ball a little.

It won’t be hard to improve on what last year’s reserves did offensively. Just think about Harrison Barnes bumbling away isolation play after isolation play and you’ll surely concede Livingston makes Golden State’s bench much easier to watch.

That sounds like an argument to trade Thompson.

As for defense, that five-man unit with the folding chair mentioned above goes from scary to utterly unfair if Thompson slides in at the 2. With Livingston, Thompson, Iguodala, Green and Bogut on the floor together, opponents simply wouldn’t score.

That seems like an argument to keep Klay.

Here’s the key thing to consider, though: The Warriors shouldn’t be thinking of this like a Livingston-for-Thompson trade.

Sure, if Thompson were to be shipped out, Livingston would absorb plenty of his minutes. But Harrison Barnes and/or Iguodala would take up some of them, too.

And the Warriors would, theoretically, get Kevin Love back.

Whatever spacing issues Thompson’s absence might create, Love’s presence would completely erase. Having a player who can stretch the floor as a power forward—something Love does better than just about anybody—is immeasurably more valuable than having a player who does the same thing from a wing position.

Shooting guards like Thompson are supposed to keep defenses honest by hitting perimeter shots. It’s a prerequisite of the job.

When big men do the things Love does from the outside, it’s a luxury—and perhaps even a championship-enabling one.

And if wing scoring is still a hangup for you, remember that Kevin Martin, who scores and does nothing else, would likely come back to the Warriors in any deal for Love.

Toss in the fact that Thompson is going to eventually cost a ton of money to retain when he hits free agency (Golden State can offer him an extension this summer to avoid letting him hit restricted free agency in 2015), and it becomes clear that trading Thompson makes sense for another reason: The Warriors can’t afford to keep him long term.

In the end, acquiring Livingston changes a great deal about the Warriors—most of it for the better.

But it doesn’t change the logical imperative that has driven many fans, critics and analysts to tear their hair out over Golden State’s hesitation to trade Thompson. Livingston or not, the Warriors should view Thompson as totally expendable if the potential return is Kevin Love.

That’s no knock on Thompson, and it’s also not a contention that Livingston is somehow a better player than he is.

It’s merely a conclusion brought about by the facts at hand.

Trading Thompson in a package for Love elevates the Warriors to legitimate title contention. Having Livingston on the roster is a great bonus, a shrewd use of the midlevel exception and a fine way to maximize Curry’s skills.

But the overarching truth about the Dubs’ biggest offseason issue remains the same: Klay Thompson was, is and must be totally expendable.

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With Franchise Chemistry at Stake, Warriors Should Keep Klay Thompson

There are a few things in this league that are more important than sheer talent. A team’s collective chemistry is one of those things.

The Golden State Warriors are in danger of threatening that connectivity as they dangle one of their prized assets in talks to acquire Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Those talks may or may not have reached a breaking point, but they certainly aren’t proceeding without their fair share of expected drama.

ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein reported that the, “Warriors have hit an impasse in their trade pursuit of All-Star forward Kevin Love due to what is being described as an ‘organizational split’ on the willingness to part with prized shooting guard Klay Thompson, according to sources close to the process.”

Per Shelburne and Stein, “sources told ESPN.com that Hall of Fame consultant Jerry West and new Warriors coach Steve Kerr have voiced opposition to surrendering both Thompson and a future first-round pick to the Timberwolves along with former All-Star forward David Lee for Love and Wolves guard Kevin Martin.”

West and Kerr aren’t the only ones expressing unease.

So too is 2013 acquisition Andre Iguodala.

According to Inside the Warriors’ Diamond Leung, Iguodala told Sirius XM radio, “We should not trade Klay Thompson,” going on to explain, “Klay is my main man. I love Klay to death. One of my favorite people in the world even though he doesn’t speak. But we’re going to get Klay paid this year. He’s going to be a Warrior for life.”

As USA Today‘s Sam Amick put it, “The pro-Klay Thompson camp is speaking up in ways that they didn’t seem to be just three days ago, and the stance — for now — that the Warriors third-year guard is going nowhere means there will likely be no deal done here unless someone budges.”

Ambitious though this organization has proven to be, is it really willing to risk causing such a stir among its key contributors—potentially even ruffling Kerr’s feathers in the process?

That would be beyond bold.

It would be counterproductive foolishness.

This roster is already on edge after the franchise parted ways with popular head coach Mark Jackson. Of Jackson’s dismissal, star point guard Stephen Curry said in May that it’s “stressful knowing how it all went down,” according to the San Jose Mercury NewsMarcus Thompson.

Per Thompson, “Curry said the emotions of watching his coach — the guy he most credits for improving his Warriors tenure — get canned, and being helpless to stop it, have yet to subside.”

Two weeks later, Curry still didn’t sound perfectly content.

“There’s no sugarcoating it — it was a weird, expedited situation that we didn’t see coming,” Curry said, according to the AP via ESPN.com. “And guys are human. You have to be able to adjust to it and have some time to respond. That’s kind of what happened. I think we’ll be fine once we have a clear picture of what’s going on next year.”

Curry added, “One thing I can say about this organization, they want to win. Each decision is geared toward winning…Obviously, I had a certain opinion of Coach Jackson that they made a decision otherwise, and I heard the reasons, but I won’t dwell on it.”

Sometimes loyalty is an integral part to that whole “wanting to win” thing.

That doesn‘t necessarily mean moving on from Jackson was a mistake. But having done so, another seismic move could generate serious consternation internally. 

Curry has yet to take a firm stand on the talks reportedly involving Thompson, but Iguodala’s voice should be heard loud and clear.

If the Warriors want their best players firing on all cylinders next season, they should tread lightly.

Everyone involved with the franchise wants to see this team get better, but not at the expense of one of its most promising young pieces. And certainly not at the expense of the cohesion that’s gotten this team this far.

Even if there weren’t such vocal opposition to dealing Thompson, there’s something to be said for keeping a good thing going. There’s something to be said for preserving the corporate knowledge that’s been built over the latter two years of Jackson’s tenure as head coach. This club is clearly on to something special, and playing musical chairs can be a dangerous gamble—even if it ostensibly improves the roster on paper.

Perhaps that kind of thinking is starting to sink in and gain sway within the organization.

The San Jose Mercury NewsTim Kawakami reports that, “An NBA source insisted to me that the Warriors flat-out will not agree to any of the proposals Minnesota is currently suggesting in the Kevin Love discussions.”

“The first stumbling block,” according to Kawakami, is that, “The Warriors are making it clear to everyone in the league, including Minnesota president Flip Saunders, that they very much do not want to part with Klay Thompson, the key part of any Minnesota demand.”

That should come as welcome news to Thompson, and it should assuage the concerns of Iguodala and others.

At least for now. 

Until Love is finally moved, Thompson will likely remain subject to a flurry of ever-changing rumors. Part of that has to do with the fact that he’s due for a very expensive extension that could complicate Golden State’s ability to add another cornerstone piece.

Amick explains:

The Timberwolves clearly covet Thompson and are well aware of the financial implications of the Warriors holding onto him beyond next season. It’s the driving force of their hope that Golden State will relent on this front, the idea that keeping him after his rookie contract expires next summer while somehow landing Love in the process means the Warriors’ payroll would be somewhere between painful and untenable.

In other words, the Timberwolves are banking on the fact that keeping Thompson and adding Love would be too expensive for the Warriors to manage—especially with Curry and Iguodala (and Andrew Bogut’s remaining contract) also in the fold. The Warriors would essentially be looking at paying four superstars according to their commensurate price tags, and that wouldn’t be easy.

But nor would trading Thompson. The Warriors have built something special, and they know it. It may not have yielded a title just yet, but we should keep things in perspective.

This is a young team with its best basketball still to come.

Here’s to hoping Klay Thompson will remain part of it.

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Best Potential Trade Packages, Scenarios and Landing Spots for Klay Thompson

Of the myriad young assets strewn about the NBA landscape, few have had their names subject to more speculation than Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors.

Taken 11th overall in the 2011 draft, the sharpshooting Thompson has steadily emerged as one of the league’s most intriguing emerging stars—the silent-but-deadly Splash Brothers counterpart to Stephen Curry’s face-of-the-franchise persona.

The last month alone has seen Thompson’s name mentioned in trade scenarios involving Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves (according to ESPN’s Marc Stein) and the rebuilding Los Angeles Lakers (per the Los Angeles Times’ Mike Bresnahan).

The market for Thompson may never be higher—at least while he’s still on his rookie contract.

Which got us thinking: What other possible trade packages might the Warriors be willing to entertain?

After weighing the options—based on cap space and relative roster need—we came up with five such scenarios.

So here they are, in no particular order:

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