May 29, 2024
During Wednesday’s exit interview, as the Warriors cleaned out their home lockers for the summer, Thompson was much more interested in talking about his past memories and his 78 games played this season than any future possibilities.

SAN FRANCISCO — Inside a Chase Center already turned over for a quiet summer, Klay Thompson sat down at the podium with a fat lip and a twinkle in his eye.

A smirk formed around the corner of his lips as he batted down the first question about his future. He’d be naive if he didn’t expect to be asked about his pending free agency. But he wanted to get what seemed like a planned routine off his chest.

“You don’t want to talk about the season first?” Thompson asked rhetorically. “You want to talk about the future? That was a lot of games played, man. That was a pretty big accomplishment. What’s up with y’all not wanting to live in the present, bro? It’s ridiculous.”

The thing is, Thompson’s present is exactly what he doesn’t want to broach. His free-agency future, which has been on the horizon all year, is here.

Even if he’s not officially a free agent until July 1, everyone knows that he may have played his last game in a Warriors uniform on Tuesday night. And it was an absolutely brutal one: He took an elbow to the face while going scoreless on 0-for-10 shooting — his worst game as a pro.

When Thompson lingered at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center following the season-ending loss, it’s hard to imagine that possibility didn’t cross his mind.

“Just disappointment because (I did) not shoot the ball well – obviously, a big old donut,” Thompson said of what he felt in that somber moment. “So that wasn’t very fun. I did look up in the nosebleeds, though, and I did see a man wearing a No. 11 jersey. That made me happy, considering my history in Sacramento from playing a state championship there to playing the Kings in the playoffs. That was kind of a full circle going for me. So that was actually a good moment, just seeing that Warriors fan standing by his lonesome up in the 300 level repping 11. That made me grateful.”

Whether he stays or goes, Thompson will continue to see blue and yellow No. 11 jerseys in NBA arenas. He’s that much of a beloved figure — a global brand, as he pointed out. He has won four titles with the Warriors, overcome two catastrophic leg injuries, authored sensational playoff moments and became a fan favorite as Captain Klay. There are too many moments over the past 13 years in the Bay to be forgotten.

During Wednesday’s exit interview, as the Warriors cleaned out their home lockers for the summer, Thompson was much more interested in talking about some of those past memories and his 78 games played this season than any future possibilities.

But again, back to Thompson’s present: His offseason begins now.

“You know, I really haven’t given it much thought,” Thompson said. “Because what I previously just said about the season we had and how much commitment it takes to play the games we did and give it our all, so I really haven’t thought about that deep into the future because I still need to process the year we had. And it was one filled with ups and downs.”

Thompson’s session didn’t feel quite like a goodbye, nor a eulogy. Much is in the air for how his free agency plays out. The Warriors will need to pony up a fair offer. He’ll have to weigh other teams’ interest against how much he wants to return to the organization he’s played for.

Asked what his priorities are, Thompson provided his most direct answer about his mindset going into the offseason.

“Obviously, you want to keep winning,” Thompson said. “I mean, when you’ve been a part of winning seasons, you don’t really want to go away from that. So I would like to win again. One for the thumb would be nice. I still think it’s in reach. It’s just going to take a huge effort. But other than that, just got to think about what will really make you happy in the last few years of your career.”

What makes Thompson happy? He loves the water; a beach day in Miami late this season was one of his favorite moments. The boat that he uses to commute across the Bay is one of his most prized possessions. His dog, Rocco, has been his best friend for over a decade. And winning, Thompson’s first instinct in the answer, still satiates the fiery competitor.

Steve Kerr, Steph Curry and Draymond Green have both already expressed their desire for the Warriors to retain Thompson.

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“I could never see myself not with those two guys,” Curry said Tuesday night. “They want to win, I want to win.”

Green noted that the Warriors’ ownership group, led by Joe Lacob, has always taken care of the star trio. Curry, Green and Kerr are extended through the next two seasons. When Thompson tore his ACL in 2019, the Warriors still signed him to a five-year, $190 million contract.

In 2011, Thompson’s rookie year, the Warriors franchise was worth an estimated $363 million. They’d had just one playoff appearance in the prior 18 seasons. Now, the Warriors are the NBA’s highest-valued team, at roughly $7 billion. Their championship core led six Finals runs and hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy four times.

Perhaps Thompson wasn’t hesitant to talk about the future in general, but rather just reluctant to think about a future without the Warriors. When the past has so many magnificent peaks and valleys triumphed, it’s probably hard to let go. Why not bask in it just a little longer?

“Whatever happens, it’s all gravy,” Thompson said. “It’s been such a freakin’ special run.”

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