It’s been a tough season for basically every member of the Golden State Warriors, but Klay Thompson would be at the top of that list. The five-time All-Star is shooting career-worst percentages from both the field and 3-point line. His formerly elite defense has slipped to the point where, in the wrong matchups, he is a liability. And lately, things have gotten even worse. In his last five games, he is shooting 28-of-81 (34.6%) from the field and 12-of-49 (24.5%) from 3-point range.
Things have gotten so hard for Thompson lately that Warriors coach Steve Kerr is sometimes removing him from the closing lineup. That happened again on Monday when the Warriors defeated the Brooklyn Nets. Thompson checked out of the game with 7:19 remaining on the clock and did not return. After the game, he was asked about Kerr’s decision and acknowledged that he’s struggling with the new reality. “Yeah, you kidding me? To go from one of the best players…It’s hard for anybody,” Thompson said.
Interestingly, it wasn’t a reporter that initially prompted the question. Teammate Draymond Green overheard the tenor of the Thompson’s conversation with reporters and, unprompted, said “I didn’t close Game 5 of the Finals. Who the f— cares?” Apparently Thompson, as Green’s quote directed the conversation in toward Thompson’s feelings on the matter.
Of course, Green and Thompson have reason to feel differently on the subject. Green signed a four-year contract last offseason. Financially speaking, he’s locked in for what should be the remainder of his prime as a Warrior. But Thompson will be a free agent after the season. All of the reporting on the subject suggests that he wants another substantial contract. Every game he struggles and every time Kerr benches him, the odds of him finding that contract get longer.
The Warriors are a fundamentally different team than they were when Thompson and Green won their four championships. Younger players like Jonathan Kuminga and Brandin Podziemski have emerged as difference-makers. The old guard isn’t performing as it did in its prime. Rarely do veterans adjust well to the reality of aging. Thompson was at one point one of the best players in the NBA.
Now, he’s someone that probably shouldn’t be closing games when he isn’t playing well. If Golden State is going to turn this season around, it is going to need all of its players to buy into the notion that there is no longer a hierarchy beyond Stephen Curry. Sometimes the older players will play. Sometimes the younger players will. What matters is that the team wins.
First appeared on www.cbssports.com