During the postgame celebration of a Game 7 win in the Western Conference Finals, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green was asked what changed in the Warriors’ locker room to get them to overcome an 11-point halftime deficit.
“Everybody was in there talking,” Green said. “The guy who I’ve heard talk most these last two games is the guy who talks the least any other time — it’s Klay. He’s been talking. That really rubbed off on everybody else.”
Thompson, peeking over Green’s left shoulder, shrugged his shoulders and raised his hands, as if to say, ‘Who, me?’
As the Warriors begin their fourth straight NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers looking for their third championship ring, the normally-reserved Thompson has found his voice at the podium, on the court and in the locker room.
With 34.1 seconds left in overtime of the Warriors’ thrilling Game 1 win over the Cavaliers, LeBron James blocked Stephen Curry’s layup in emphatic fashion. As basketball’s biggest superstars squared up, barbs were exchanged. Then Thompson got involved.
“[It’s] just basketball talk,” Thompson explained. “I’m going to stand up for Steph, though. That’s my teammate. I’m not going to let him be there on a lonely island. If someone is talking to him, I’m going to have his back.”
The usually reserved Splash Brother, who’s thrilled whenever he gets to skip the postgame podium, has been noticeably more expressive on the floor dating back to Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. As he knocked down nine three-pointers and dropped 35 points, Thompson pumped his fists and shouted wildly to the Oracle Arena crowd.
“All our voices are valuable,” Thompson said at the pre-Finals media day. “But I just try to speak when I feel like it’s important, and it’s that simple. Play hard and speak when you feel like you can motivate someone.”
At media day, the annual circus where hundreds of reporters congregate on the eve of the Finals, Thompson delivered some of the most memorable lines. When a reporter asked if it was bad that the Warriors and Cavs are monopolizing the Finals for a fourth year in a row, Thompson brushed the narrative aside.
“I don’t think so,” Thompson said. “I think the rest of the NBA has got to get better. It’s not our fault.”
With the Warriors in the midst of a historic run, Thompson isn’t feeling the fatigue of four consecutive playoff marathons.
“I do not take this moment for granted,” Thompson said on NBA TV the day before the Finals. “I remember how nervous I was my first time around. My nerves are a little more calm now, being my fourth time [here].
“But I still appreciate all this media,” Thompson continued. “Basketball is a global game. So to see people from all over the globe here to interview us is so cool. Guys don’t get this in their whole career and we get to do it every June. So, it’s an amazing feat and we do not take it for granted.”
Midway through the opening quarter of Game 1, J.R. Smith barreled into Thompson’s legs on a steal attempt, twisting Thompson’s knee. Thompson limped to the locker room and missed the rest of the quarter.
Thompson returned to play 39:38 of the final 41 minutes. He scored 24 points, making 5-of-10 three-pointers. On Friday, he admitted that he wouldn’t have re-entered the fray if it was a Tuesday in February.
“Obviously, the stakes on the line right now are huge, so that helps,” Thompson said during a conference call on Friday. “If this was game 32 of the regular season, I would not have played [on Thursday] night. You know because it’s a long, long grind to get to where we want to be. But since we only need four wins to hoist that trophy, the pain tolerance will go up.”
Then, about a minute after silencing an unnamed clapper in the background at practice, Thompson made an executive decision and cut things short.
“Alright, this is my last question because I’ve got to go.”