SACRAMENTO — Klay Thompson was getting dressed at his corner stall in the visiting locker room at Golden 1 Center on Sunday night. Instantly, you could tell the sharpshooter wasn’t in the most pleasant mood as he scarfed down some popcorn while putting his shoes on.
Media members camped near the entrance of the locker room, waiting for players to become available. The Golden State Warriors had just suffered a 122-115 loss to the Sacramento Kings, descending to 0-7 on the road to start the season.
Thompson, who is off to the worst shooting start of his NBA career, scored 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting (including 5-of-13 from three-point range) to go with seven boards, a block and a steal in 32 minutes.
He let Warriors PR maven Ray Ridder know that he didn’t feel like talking that night, but the veteran guard eventually changed his mind and granted Bleacher Report an exclusive interview.
When mentioned that he was a part of all four of the championships the Warriors have secured in a span that’s close to approaching a decade, Thompson swiftly interjected without allowing the question to materialize.
“You’re damn right I’ve been here for those titles,” Thompson stated to B/R emphatically. “People act like they forgot.”
The 6’6” guard is referring to those who have criticized his slow start. He’s averaging 14.7 points, his lowest scoring output since his 2011-12 rookie season, and he's shooting career lows overall (35.1 percent) and from three-point range (33 percent).
Thompson missed the entire 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons because he tore his ACL and Achilles in consecutive years. He came back last season and remarkably averaged 20.4 points while shooting 38.5 percent from long distance in 32 regular-season games.
However, due to his slow start, the five-time All-Star has faced criticism from commenters like Charles Barkley—whom he surprisingly called out—to those questioning if it’s time to start Jordan Poole over him. (Full disclosure: Charles Barkley is an analyst for Turner Sports, which owns Bleacher Report.)
The 32-year-old has never cared about what pundits stated in the past. Why now?
“Yeah, that’s true, but I feel like I deserve more credit for battling through all that injury s--t,” Thompson told B/R. “I helped a team win a championship last year and people still want to discredit what you do.
"You know what I’ve learned about that? You just can’t please everybody. But for myself individually, it’s about rediscovering that form of efficiency and that two-way play that made me great. And I feel like I'm well on my way there.”
The defending champs have some rotation issues to figure out. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has been tinkering with the secondary lineup in an effort to find the right nucleus.
This year, barring an in-season trade, Golden State will have to rely on some or all of its promising yet inexperienced talent, including James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, to round out into reliable contributors in the second unit.
That's a new obstacle for the Warriors.
“It’s a lot different,” Draymond Green said. “For the most part, coming off the bench, we’ve had an elder statesman [in years past]. Someone who would come off the bench, slow things down, and right the ship. It’s different now.
"The reality is the first guy that comes off the bench is usually [Jordan Poole], and J.P. is a sixth starter. That’s a different feel. And I think [past second units] used to be a different offense, but it’s more like the same, and we have to figure that out."
"We need to understand that what you’re accustomed to when Steph [Curry] goes out the game and the offense changes and there are more sets. But with Jordan, it’s still going to be more of the same as what you get with Steph. And I think guys have to really adjust to that, and it’s taken some time to adjust to that.
"For a majority of those guys [in the second unit], they don’t play a ton with Steph and so they don’t really understand that ... opposed to when Jordan comes in with us. We’ve played with Steph for so long, we understand the randomness of it. I think that group has to start understanding the randomness of it, but like I said, that takes time.”
The Warriors are currently 6-8 after blowing out the San Antonio Spurs 132-95 at Chase Center on Monday in their second game of a back-to-back.
The Warriors are back on the road Wednesday facing the Phoenix Suns. The team is currently winless outside of the Bay Area.
“We’re just in a little bit of a rut,” Thompson told B/R. “But in spirit, we’re lucky to get this out the way early. On the bright side, I’m happy to go through this now compared to a few months from now. No need to panic. We’re like 14 games in. It’s a long season. We face a challenge of going back-to-back, which is incredibly difficult. And then trying to integrate the new guys. It’s going to take time but we’ll figure it out.”
And Thompson reiterated that he’ll figure it out as well.
“I have no doubt in my mind I’ll get back to form,” Thompson told B/R. “I was there last year. I was right there. We won a championship. And I have no doubt we’ll get back there. The proof is in the pudding. But there’s one more thing I’ll say: You can’t take away the hardware.”
Chris Haynes has covered the NBA for 13 years, with previous stops at Yahoo, ESPN, Comcast Sportsnet Northwest and Cleveland.com. You can also find him roaming the sidelines on NBA on TNT broadcasts every week.