SAN FRANCISCO — After experiencing some rust last season, Golden State’s Klay Thompson is optimistic heading into the 2022-23 NBA season.
“I expect to play at an All-Star level again,” Thompson said.
But don’t expect to see Thompson on the floor for 40 minutes. Not yet anyway.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Thompson is “not ready to play big minutes” after playing in only one preseason game. But Kerr does not expect Thompson to face as many limitations as he did last season after staying sidelined in 2019-20 and 2020-21 with injuries.
After returning nearly halfway through the 2021-22 season, Thompson averaged 20.4 points on 42.9% shooting from the field and a career-low 38.5% from 3-point range. As for Thompson’s ninth NBA season? Kerr projected Thompson “to be a great two-way player” that entails “guarding one of the opponent’s best wings and being one of the great shooters on Earth.”
Thompson talked to NBA.com about his expectations for the 2022-23 campaign, last season’s return, and his training regimen. He also dished on the recent fight between Draymond Green and Jordan Poole, where things stand on a contract extension, and his offseason trips.
Editor’s note: The following 1-on-1 conversation has been condensed and edited.
NBA.com: How are you feeling physically?
I feel amazing. I’m very healthy. I’m in shape. I’m excited and mentally refreshed. I’m so excited for what the year brings.
What was your offseason work?
A bunch of individual work. Working on my jump shot, handles and defensive slides. I was in the weight room a lot. To do that every day for three to four hours a day felt so good, especially compared to the past two offseasons with a ton of rehab and strength building with my knee and Achilles. To be able to work on my game and be free in my body is something I’ll never take for granted again. It was a great offseason.
How did you weigh out the pros and cons with not playing any 5-on-5 in the offseason?
We played until June 18th, and I started back up on July 10. That gave me 2 1/2 months of really solid work. Although I didn’t play 5–on-5, I still felt I got better. I wanted to do that in front of our training staff. When they gave me the OK to play 5-on-5, my confidence shot up. The last time I didn’t do it in front of them, it did not end well. I don’t want to climb that mountain again.
What’s your evaluation of your play last season?
I’m a perfectionist. I think my shooting splits will be higher this season. Finding my legs was a big challenge. But I thought I was peaking at the right time. Although I was inconsistent in those 32 regular-season games, I thought I had a great playoff run. I wish I shot the ball better in the Finals (17 points per game on 35.6% shooting overall, 35.1% from deep). At the same time, I made big shots when it counted most. I was there when my team needed me most. I give myself an A just for what I had to battle through to get to that point. To become the second-leading scorer on a championship team after having 2 1/2 years off? I couldn’t wish for a better outcome.
We talked to both players as a group about needing to understand what needed to be done to mend that relationship. … I love both of those guys. … We all love each other. We’re not the Dubs without either of them. We need both of them to go where we want to go.”
— Klay Thompson, on Draymond Green and Jordan Poole
What do you expect this season?
I expect to play at an All-Star level again and hopefully become an All-Star. Early on, I’m on a minutes restriction. So I’ll try to be as efficient as I can with those 20 minutes. Within the next few weeks, I expect to play starter minutes again. I expect to be great with all the training I did and all the experience I gained from last year. I’m no longer being inserted in the middle of the season, so I expect to have a really good year.
Steve Kerr said he expects you to be a two-way player again and be able to defend top wing players. How do you see that?
I’m grateful for Andrew [Wiggins]. That makes my job so much easier. He always has the task of guarding the best player. I can do that in spurts, but I plan on being a very impactful player on both sides of the ball. Most importantly, I plan on having fun. To have the opportunity to win five [NBA championships] is never something I envisioned as a rookie. I’m just so excited to enjoy every day to be an NBA player. I’m not 21 anymore. I’m about to be 33 this season. I know I can’t do this forever. No matter how long I got left, I’m going to embrace and enjoy every single day. Unfortunately, we are not musicians or actors that can do all of this forever. We have to soak it up while we can.
How did you view Draymond’s fight with Jordan and how did you handle it afterward?
It was unfortunate. Violence is never the solution to anything, especially between teammates. But we are moving past it. We talked to both players as a group about needing to understand what needed to be done to mend that relationship. We know that winning cures all, and that ring night will help soothe the pain from a tough couple of weeks.
I love both of those guys. Draymond is my brother. We’ve been through everything together. JP is like my little brother. I want what is best for them. I’m very excited that JP got extended. He earned that. To see where he has come from his rookie season and now being the future of the franchise is special. I know Draymond and I have so much left in the tank, not just this year but for years to come. We all love each other. We’re not the Dubs without either of them. We need both of them to go where we want to go.
How do you wrestle with the possibility this season might be the last run with the whole core?
I don’t want to believe that, but Draymond has a player option next year. You never know what happens. Whether it is or it isn’t, we have to think about what we can do to repeat because that itself is such a hard task and such a great opportunity. To have a chance to get five [titles] with Draymond, Steph and Andre [Iguodala] is a crazy, crazy thing to contextualize. I’m so freaking excited to get this season going.
Have you and your reps talked with the front office yet about signing an extension?
I have not talked to the front office about it.
How do you expect that to play out?
I’m just going to do what I got to do to be the best I can be every day. I’m going to be a great player. I know what I’m capable of. I fully expect to earn another NBA contract, whether it’s this summer or next summer. I’m fully confident in my abilities. I’m not worried about an extension in the meantime because I know it’ll happen if I just do my job and I just be myself.
James Wiseman said you helped him with navigating his prolonged injuries. What was your message?
Embrace being young, being in the NBA and being on a great team. Be focused on your craft and keep growing your mind. Appreciate how far you have come and what your future holds if you do the work. I love James. He really wants to be great. You love that from a young player. He is not enamored with the limelight or the lifestyle that comes with being an NBA star. He just wants to be a great NBA player that goes down as one of the greatest Warriors to play.
Aside from your training, how did you enjoy your offseason?
Traveling a little bit and seeing my family, especially in the Bahamas. I wasn’t able to see them for three years because of the pandemic. It was very fun going down there and seeing my brother [Trayce] play in the MLB playoffs. I went to San Diego [earlier this week]. Even though the Dodgers lost, he had such a great year and it is something to build on for next year. But it was special seeing him out there during the playoffs. It was the cherry on top with the great offseason we had.
What will you remember the most about seeing your brother in that moment?
I just appreciated seeing him in centerfield starting for the Dodgers. I appreciated seeing him get a base hit and make an incredible diving catch. I was locked into every pitch. I have to give the Padres credit. Their crowd was incredible. It hurts watching them lose such an amazing season. Their future is great. Baseball is tough. It’s harder to read than basketball. But seeing Trayce out in the outfield was so surreal. I know how hard he’s worked to get to that point. I was so grateful he had the opportunity to feel what a playoff series was like.
What were the highlights of your Bahamas trip?
Seeing my family, boating and diving. The Bahamian waters are the best in the world — it’s the clarity in the water, the fish and the ecosystem. I got to swim with some reef sharks. That was super cool. I dove all the way to the sea floor at 40 feet and had a bottom time of about 30 seconds. As a free diver, I was very impressed with myself so I gave myself a pat on the back. I feel rejuvenated every time I come home from the Islands.
What about your European trip?
I went to France and Italy. That was so much fun. I got to tour the Coliseum and the Sistine Chapel. I got to see the Amalfi Coast. It was the trip of a lifetime. It was cool seeing the Coliseum. What we do in an arena and then seeing Rome and its love of sport and competition that stretches back thousands of years? The correlation is special. The fact that we’re doing that now brought me a lot of gratitude.
I also bought a fedora in Rome. Who knew I could transform into Michael Jackson. That was such a special day. It was one of those days feeling like your hard work paying off. I’ll try to have more days like that next summer. But that comes with running this back.
What was it like trying to go against a sumo wrestler during the Warriors’ preseason trip to Japan?
"He's too– I can't… Nah nah he's too strong."
-Klay Thompson going at it with pro sumo wrestler 🤣pic.twitter.com/8cTobxl81q
— Warriors Nation (@WarriorNationCP) September 29, 2022
He was like a tree stump. He was an immovable object. It was cool to see those guys and how they train. The training regimen they do is centuries old. The culture of Tokyo was very strong. It was cool to see another part of the world and see our Japanese fans wearing Warriors unis. It was surreal. It makes you appreciate how far the brand has grown.
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Mark Medina is a senior writer/analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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