May 30, 2024
Thompson went scoreless in potentially his last game as a Warrior.

SACRAMENTO — Only six players have gone scoreless in a postseason game while attempting at least 10 field goals in the shot clock era.

The list spans from 1978 to the NBA Finals last year: Bob Wilkerson, Nate Robinson, Marvin Williams, Trevor Ariza, Reggie Bullock and Max Strus.

The only reason Klay Thompson won’t join them is because play-in round stats curiously don’t count towards official records.

Thompson doesn’t belong in the same sentence as those players, anyway. He’s a five-time All-Star and a four-time NBA champion. He has a legitimate claim as the second-greatest 3-point ever. He’s had some of the most clutch playoff performances ever — his 41-point “Game 6 Klay” Game against the Thunder in 2016, nine 3s against Houston with their backs against the wall, back-to-back 27-point gems to eliminate the Rockets a year later.

But when the Warriors had a chance to keep their long-held belief that they could make another deep playoff run alive, Thompson threw up a goose egg. He went 0-for-10, including six 3-pointers, for his worst shooting game of his NBA career. Unlike in past cold shooting nights, Thompson didn’t make up for it on the defensive end or by playmaking.

Thompson wasn’t the only reason the Warriors fell, 118-94, to the Kings in the 9/10 play-in game. But his worst game ever came in possibly his last game as a Warrior, as he’s bound for unrestricted free agency. After the final horn sounded, he lingered for an extra moment on the court to soak in the scene.

Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson (11) stops near the entrance of the players tunnel and takes a moment to himself after being defeated by the Sacramento Kings during their NBA Play-In Tournament game at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif., on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. The Sacramento Kings defeated the Golden State Warriors 118-94. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

If that was Thompson’s last moment in a Warrior uniform, it didn’t make much sense dramatically. The former postseason hero who went through the NBA hell of missing two straight seasons due to catastrophic injuries deserved a more triumphant ending. The Warriors still believe they’re going to write a different one.

“Everybody’s going to talk about one game,” Steph Curry cautioned postgame. “I know he wanted to play better. But we go through so much over 82 games, and the fact that he was able to turn his season around, with a new role.”

It’s true: Thompson flipped the script on a season that, early on, was headed for ignominy. He reluctantly embraced a move to the bench, caught a rhythm, and thrived once he returned to the starting lineup. He played 78 games — most since his consecutive ACL and Achilles tears — which he takes immense pride in. He hit the fourth-most 3s in the league.

But now, the Warriors’ season is abruptly over. Questions about the team’s future will swirl earlier than anyone in the organization hoped. Can the dynastic core of Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green still vie for titles? Is there any possible way to add a second elite scorer next to Curry? Can the Warriors dip under the luxury tax and remain competitive?

In one way or another, Thompson is at the center of each question. If he decides to leave in free agency — or if the team lets him go — an era will officially end.

It doesn’t seem like the Warriors are ready for that fade to black.

Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green #23 sits on the bench in the second quarter of their NBA play-in tournament game against the Sacramento Kings at the Golden One Center in Sacramento, Calif., on Tuesday, April 16, 2023. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) 

“Obviously, we want Klay back,” Draymond Green said. “We’ve been through a lot. Incredible highs. Some shitty lows. But the common denominator through both of them is we’ve gone through each and every scenario together. It’s obvious that we want to continue what we’ve been doing, but I understand he’s got a decision to make. He’s going to make the best decision for him. The team’s got a decision to make. They’ll make the best decision for the team.”

Green noted that he believes the Warriors’ ownership group won’t penny-pinch Thompson. They took care of Green with a contract extension, have always maxed out Curry, and extended Steve Kerr as well. After Thompson tore his ACL, the franchise gave him a $190 million contract, Green reminded everyone from the Golden 1 Center podium.

“They’ve shown nothing but respect, loyalty, love, trust,” Green said.

The 34-year-old Thompson has shown signs of decline. But he’s still a valuable player — and will probably always be more valuable to the Warriors than any other team. His chemistry with Curry and Green goes back more than a decade. No one knows how to leverage his shooting threat more than the Warriors. His intrinsic value to the organization and fan base is immense.

“I love Klay so much,” Kerr said Tuesday night.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr talks to his players during a timeout in the first quarter of their NBA Play-In Tournament game at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif., on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

“We need Klay back,” Kerr later added. “I know he had a tough night tonight. But what he represents for us, the spacing — we’re not a deep shooting team. We’re a little top-heavy. Klay’s presence means so much to the spacing on the floor, to the flow of the offense. He’s still got good years left. And I know I speak for everyone in the organization: we want him back. Obviously, there’s business at hand, and that has to be addressed with Klay’s representatives, with Mike and Joe. But what Klay has meant to the franchise, as good as he still is, we desperately want him back.”

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Klay Thompson addresses uncertain future ahead of Warriors-Kings play-in game

It’s a two-way street. Thompson has expressed interest in being a Warrior for life, but extension negotiations stalled when he reportedly turned down a two-year, $48 million offer. Teams like the Heat, Magic, 76ers, Thunder, Spurs and Lakers would probably love to add a shooter like him.

There will almost certainly be offers on the table for Thompson to leave.

“I have no reason to think our ownership group (isn’t) going to take care of us the way we’ve taken care of the organization,” Green said. “Like I said, ultimately that decision will be Klay’s.”

If Thompson decides to leave the Bay Area, he’ll do so on a strange, sour note — as one of the greatest shooters to ever live who, for one night in Sacramento, can’t make a single shot.

Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson #11 sits on the bench during a timeout in the final minutes of the fourth quarter of their NBA play-in tournament game against the Sacramento Kings at the Golden One Center in Sacramento, Calif., on Tuesday, April 16, 2023. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)