SAN FRANCISCO — Klay Thompson doesn’t like to think there are two versions of himself or his game — pre-injury versus post-injury — and he doesn’t follow the mindset that he’s “getting back” to what he was. He found that it does him no favors and puts pressure on his game as a result.
Instead, he says focusing on the current tasks at hand has allowed him to find stability.
“I am and I was able to do these things in the past, and as long as my wrists still work, my legs work, I will be able to shoot the rock forever,” said Thompson after after he scored 42 points on. Friday night in a 116-101 Golden State Warriors win over the Houston Rockets. “So for me, it’s just about hunting great shots, and tonight I did that.”
Thompson’s performance came on the second of back-to-back nights, just the second time he has played in back-to-back nights since returning from injuries. This is the most points he has scored in a game without Stephen Curry (lower left leg) and Draymond Green (right knee contusion).
“It’s very satisfying,” said Thompson, 32. “I always think about the year I didn’t play. I think about the time I was on the sidelines, watching. Now, everything is easy to put into perspective and appreciate being able to move my body and play with great speed and flow and don’t hesitate or even think about anything.”
All 12 of Thompson’s field goals were 3-pointers, with 17 of his 19 field goal attempts coming from beyond the arc. He also went 6-of-6 from the free throw line. His 42 points and 12 3-pointers are the two most in a game by a player who did not make a 2-point field goal.
Thompson also became the first player in NBA history to make 12 3-pointers in multiple games in a season. Both have arrived in February.
“I did something that no one else has ever done before,” said Thompson. “I immediately looked at Steph when I did it because, I mean, that guy’s got all the records, so it’s fun to push the game with him. I’m still so hungry to be great. I will never be satisfied.”
Since the new year, Thompson has shot 45.9% from beyond the arc and 45.2% from the entire floor. He knows his shooting splits, but unlike in the past when he would obsess about his numbers and statistics, he says they don’t “make or break” him.
“I always want to be a high-volume but efficient scorer, but who doesn’t,” said Thompson. Ideally, he would improve his two-point percentage to over 50 percent, but there are other areas of his game that he is most eager to grow to become a better player.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he was as pleased with Thompson’s seven rebounds against the Rockets as he was with his hot shooting display, because it spoke to Thompson’s desire and ability to do more than score.
The coaching staff told Thompson that no matter what happens in the future, he will always be considered one of the best shooters the game has ever seen. But now, with Curry, Green, and Andrew Wiggins (family matters) out, Thompson is tasked with being a veteran leader and stepping outside of his comfort zone.
Kerr and Thompson talked Friday afternoon about how players have to evolve as they get older. They talked about how Michael Jordan contributed to being a low-post player in his 30s as an example of a developing player. For Magic Johnson, he was improving as a 3-point shooter and free throw shooter.
“You can’t expect to be exactly the same player you were five years ago,” Kerr said. “And I think Klay understands that and the challenge is to be more defensive and louder and a better leader and a better rebounder and all those things because, within the team, he’s the an elder now.”
Thompson said: “I’m not the most comfortable person using my voice, but you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s how you become great. (Friday), I did a good job leading by example and using my voice.”