SAN FRANCISCO — Klay Thompson is watching, Chuck. And Steph Curry is listening, too.
Following Thursday night’s 123-110 victory over the Miami Heat, Klay Thompson took questions from reporters for about seven minutes before he had to get something off his chest.
At the top of his mind? None other than Charles Barkley, the outspoken “Inside the NBA” commentator for TNT.
“I got one thing to say,” Klay said, unprompted. “It hurts when someone like Charles Barkley, with the platform he has, says you’re not the same player prior to the injuries you had. It’s like, ‘Come on, man. No duh, man.’ Consecutive years, I tore my ACL and my Achilles in consecutive years and still help a team win a championship? I mean, that hurt hearing that, because I put so much freakin' effort to get back to this point. It’s hard to even put into words what I had to do to be the player I am today.”
Klay was referring to comments Barkley made Tuesday night, after his two-point dud against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday that featured his first career ejection.
Nine hundred forty-one days. Nine hundred and forty-one freakin’ days.
From Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals to Klay Day on Jan. 9, we only got to see glimpses of Thompson’s odyssey to return to the floor. For months, we were relegated to watching Klay on his boat on The Bay, just daydreaming about his inevitable return to the Dubs. About five months after his momentous return, Klay hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy once again in Boston. Perhaps no one enjoyed Parade Day on Market Street more than Klay a few days later.
That glow has faded now, five games deep into the 2022-23 season. Klay tried to shoot himself out of a mini-slump Thursday night and finished with a season-high 19 points.
Still, Thompson fought through an ugly 0-for-6 end to the first half and finished his evening 6-of-19 from the field and 5-of-14 from 3-point land. Early in the third quarter, Steph Curry helped get Klay going by setting up the second of back-to-back trifectas.
"A good rule of thumb is to get Klay shots,” Curry said. “That’s usually a good decision."
While he’s shooting just 34.4 percent from the floor and 31 percent from distance this year, Klay had a message for Chuck. The 32-year-old was more focused on the fact he played a season-high 29 minutes Thursday.
“I played (59) games in three years? Gimme some freakin’ time to get that back,” Thompson said. “To hear someone say, ‘He’s not the same as he was prior to the injury,’ it’s like, ‘Duh!’ Who goes through something like that and comes back? I don’t know, it just hurt my heart hearing that, but you know what? I’m gonna internalize and it’s gonna be fuel for me to be even better. I’m very proud of what we accomplished last year and I’m a huge part of it. I’m not gonna let these injuries be a crutch for me. I’m just gonna keep going and I’m gonna have a great year. Bet on that.”
Klay slapped the podium for emphasis on the last part.
This isn't the first time Thompson has taken his gripes public, as he wore a No. 77 jersey after being left off the NBA's Top 75 list (which actually featured 76 players due to a tie in voting) and has been roasting the 2K video game franchise for his rating.
His Splash Brother also delivered a subtle jab to Barkley, which was apropos of the all-knowing Petty King.
"It’s interesting, because certain guys forget what their careers looked like on the back end,” Curry said. “You can cast and throw those stones, but Klay’s still in here helping us win a championship after the two hellish years he had.”
For what it’s worth, Barkley played in just 62 combined games his final two seasons. He averaged 15.6 points and 11.7 rebounds per game that campaign, his scoring average down considerably from his career average (22.1 ppg) and best season (28.3 ppg), though his rebounding rate was on par with his career.
We’re still yet to see Klay explode like he did during Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals last year at Chase Center, but it won’t be for lack of trying.
“They’re feeding me the rock and if I’m open, I’m gonna shoot it,” Thompson said, shaking his head. “If I’m not out there shooting, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. That’s what I was born to do. I made more playoff 3’s than anybody but Steph. I’m gonna let it fly, every time. It’s just in my nature. ...
“I know I’m due for a really big shooting night really soon. I’ll break out of it.”