Three games deep into the 2022-23 campaign, Captain Klay is still getting his sea legs.
While Steph Curry has started off the season with three straight games of at least 33 points, his Splash Brother Klay Thompson is averaging 14 points per game while shooting 40.5 percent from the floor and 34.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Warriors-Suns coverage starts at 6:30 PT
Perhaps a slow start is to be expected from Klay, who admitted to overcoming a mental hurdle of playing 5-on-5 basketball before the regular season, following his Achilles injury in a November 2020 pickup game. Thompson appeared in one preseason contest and is still on a restriction of about 25-26 minutes, down about 5-10 from his usual workload.
“It’s still something to work with,” Thompson told reporters Tuesday in Arizona, ahead of the matchup against the Phoenix Suns. “I know the big shooting nights will come as long as I just stay the course and stay patient and trust the training staff to let me go when I need to. I was in the same formula last year and it led to a championship. I can get frustrated all that I want, but I trust our staff, they know what they’re doing.”
Klay has referred to missed shots that hit the front of the rim as “shortbread” and shots that clank off back iron as “long loaves.” Unfortunately, Thompson has been making too many visits to the bakery, like on Sunday night when he went 3-of-10 from the field and 2-of-7 from distance.
After sitting out 941 days before his momentous comeback on Jan. 9 earlier this season, Klay said he has a better perspective about early-season shooting slumps. Tuesday night’s game will mark his 56th since his comeback.
“I’m not going to worry about made shots or statistics,” Thompson said. “I’m just going to go out there and play hard and be a two-way, impactful player.”
The entire Dubs team is still going through a feeling-out process, especially with the second unit. Despite his down individual stats, Thompson’s contributions have been key on Golden State’s starting five, which has carried the team through its first three games, including two victories.
The minutes will rise in the coming weeks. Klay is thinking about the bigger picture, pointing to last year’s augmented workload before he averaged 36 minutes and 19 points in 22 postseason games. But it sounds like Klay is shouldering the blame for his role in Golden State’s sloppy start to the season.
“When you’re the reason you feel like your team goes through a slump, it’s nice to get that out the way early, in October,” Thompson said. “That really helps me put things into perspective. I’m such a perfectionist, I want to be great right now but I’ve got to realize it’s a long season. I’d rather peak come playoff time, versus early November, January.”
Despite all the kinks being worked out, the Warriors enter Tuesday’s contest with the NBA’s highest-scoring offense (125.3 points per game) and the Suns feature the league’s No. 5-ranked defense (104.3 points per game).
Thompson said he wants to bounce back with a big effort on Tuesday night.
“Last game, I didn’t play too well,” Thompson said. “I thought I played well defensively, but offensively I was stagnant, I wasn’t cutting as hard as I should. I look to be even better tonight. I haven’t played in this arena in a few years, I’m excited. It’s like I’m starting over again.”