Editor’s note: This story was originally published on Feb. 23.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson finds inspiration in a Kobe Bryant quote, “Greatness isn’t just on the court, it’s everything you do.”
It has shaped Thompson as a creature of habit when it comes to his game preparation. He goes through the same warmup routine each game — the same one he has been doing for years. He starts with the same knee stretch — a new addition to his routine since returning from an ACL tear and an Achilles tear — three little knee wiggles to the right, three times to the left.
His shooting warmup starts with midrange shots from different spots on the court, sometimes getting extra arc on the ball or getting his legs more involved if his shot feels short. Eventually, he works on 3-point shooting, which combines dribble and on-the-move actions.
“When I was younger in college, I would literally just show up. I wouldn’t stretch, I wouldn’t warm up — just walk onto the court,” Thompson, who played three seasons at Washington State from 2008 to 2011, told ESPN. “I could just play basketball. But now, after all the mileage, you’ve got to be meticulous with your training.”
Then he goes to the weight room.
His pregame routine stops just short of being superstitious. He says he can’t get too hung up on that, but he does know that if he flips a kettlebell just right, it’s a good sign.
Thompson doesn’t do the flip all that often — just once every few months — and he doesn’t have a great record. But when he does, a big performance usually follows.
“I see if it lands upright. If it does, it’s going to be a good night,” Thompson said. “It’s rare that it happens. But when it does, it’s nice.”
That’s exactly what happened before his 42-point performance on Feb. 6, when he knocked down 12 3-pointers against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It was the eighth time Thompson hit at least 10 3-pointers in a game — the second most in NBA history behind his splash brother, Stephen Curry.
Curry was sidelined indefinitely Feb. 4 by partial tears to his left superior tibiofibular ligaments and interosseous membrane, which holds the fibula and tibia together. He also suffered a lower leg contusion, but Golden State announced Wednesday that Curry is “making good progress” in his recovery and will be reevaluated in one week.
The Warriors, 2-3 in the five games since Curry’s injury, need to survive this stretch if they hope to keep up in the jam-packed Western Conference standings.
Thompson knows there is more pressure on his shoulders to step up in Curry’s absence. But if he plays like he’s under pressure, he knows he won’t get the results he did against Oklahoma City.
“I might get a few more shot attempts [when Curry is out], but I just got to be myself, play my game, not play hero ball,” Thompson said. “That’s when I get in trouble.”
Thompson described himself as compulsive over his shooting splits, percentages and averages, but over the past 18 months, as he recovered from the consecutive ACL and Achilles injuries, he has learned to let go of that.
“That time gave me so much gratitude to do what I do. It gave me perspective on what really matters,” Thompson said. “I’m out there playing, out there competing. That’s what’s most important. If you do those things and give it your all, you can accept that the accolades and great shooting nights will come.”
Golden State doesn’t need Thompson to be the hero during Curry’s absence. They just need him to be reliable. The same can be said of Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins.
In the first two games without Curry, Thompson made 19 3-pointers — his most over a two-game span in his career. He also scored 73 points over those two games, the most in NBA history over two games without attempting a free throw.
Thompson has averaged 25.9 points on 44% shooting (40% from 3) in 14 games he has played without Curry this season. In the 32 games with Curry in the lineup, Thompson has averaged 19.4 points on 41% shooting.
“We feed off Klay all of the time,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Klay can keep us in it.”
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