In this four-part series, we’ll take a deeper look at the recent success of the Golden State Warriors. Today, we examine the Warriors’ star backcourt tandem.—Ed.
by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista
“I’ve never had that opportunity before to play with somebody that shoots better than me so it motivates me to get on his level,” says Klay Thompson on backcourt partner Stephen Curry.
Curry and Thompson lead all NBA backcourts with over 42 points per game. Combined, they average just over 15 three-point attempts and connect on over 40 percent of those.
Curry, who set an NBA record with 272 made threes last year, also became the only player in NBA history to average at least 22 points and 6 assists in a season, while shooting at least 45 percent from three.
This season, Curry is averaging 22.8 points and a career-high 9.5 assists per game. Warriors head coach Mark Jackson recently told the media he “might retire” if Curry once again gets overlooked for the All-Star game.
Asked to comment on the importance of All-Star and the backing of his coach, Curry says, “It’s important to every player. That’s a goal when you come into the League to work your way up to that point. When you’re in the moment, it’s not a priority. I’m not playing to make the All-Star team. You’re playing to impact your team to get wins. It’s special that your coach goes out on a limb and says that for you, kind of echoing what he said last year. I appreciate every time he steps out like that and pitches for his guys. We do the same for him, knowing that he’s a great coach, and he’s put us in positions to be successful this year and has made adjustments along the way. We feed off of his presence every single night. It would be an honor, obviously, and I hope it happens. But all in all, in the right time.”
The Warriors have won 10 straight, the team’s longest single-season win streak since 1975. They have also compiled a 6-0 record on their seven-game Eastern Conference road trip.
“It feels great,” says Thompson, “The thing is, you don’t want to break it, so you just all got to focus one game at a time. It’s a long trip for us. To be able to come out here and get some wins against some good teams would be huge, especially going back to Oracle.”
Asked what it takes to prepare for a trip of that magnitude, Thompson says, “It just takes a lot of focus. You just got to look at it as a business trip…after this 12-day behemoth of a trip, the longest one after that is six days I think. That will feel like a breeze compared to this one.”
In his third NBA season, Thompson is averaging a career-high 19.4 points. He is shooting 45.6 percent from the field and 41.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Thompson had a chance to flourish in the 2013 postseason. He averaged over 15 points and 42 percent from three in over 41 minutes per game. The Warriors took the eventual Western champion Spurs to six games in the second round.
Asked what he took away from last season, Thompson says, “Just the consistency you need to play with to be a great team. We were a good team last year. We were on the brink of being a great team. I think that playoff experience was very valuable for us young guys. We’re trying to use it to propel us even further this year.”
While defenses have changed the way they have guarded the rising star, Thompson’s versatility allows him to be effective in different situations. “My game, I don’t need the ball in my hand to be effective. I play with a great point guard, Steph Curry, who’s a great playmaker. D-Lee and Iggy are great playmakers as well. I get my points off them a lot. If I just focus on my defense and play on that end, I know my offense will take care of itself,” he says.
While Thompson has been a shooter since entering the League, his defense has consistently improved. Asked about the work he put in, he says, “It was more just repetition, doing the basic drills…stuff that isn’t fun, but really pays off if you just put the work in. I did that the summer after my rookie year and it really paid off for me.”
While Curry and Thompson continue to grow their games and add new facets to their already impressive repertoires, they will cement their reputation as one of the best sharpshooting backcourts to grace the NBA.
On whether the two engage in shooting contests during practice, Thompson says, “All the time. I always say, the winner probably got the better sleep the night before. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of threes get hoisted up.”
Teammate and second-year forward Harrison Barnes says, “It’s one of those things where they do it all the time in practice, and you think you’d just be accustomed to seeing it, but the stuff they do in games, the shots they hit, the plays they make, it’s pretty crazy.”
No question opponents feel the same way.
The Warriors are collecting clutch wins