Klay Thompson is gaining momentum, and he has 23 games left to get closer to his best level. He gave a glimpse of it against the Lakers with his 33 points and three award-winning baskets in the “money time”. After two and a half years of absence, it is physically that he still has to progress. Especially in defense.
“I think I’m about 80%” does he think in the columns of The Athletic. “I still have a long way to go. But 80% of my form is already good on the defense side. I can use my power to support guys, my height to contain smaller fullbacks. I’m strong against the insides. I can always switch in defense. But as far as my lateral movement speed is concerned, it’s about 80, 85% of my old level. I know it will take time to come back. There will be obstacles in my way.”
In two and a half years, the NBA has changed too. The notion of position on the field is in danger, and many formations take advantage of the versatility of players to have them defend in several positions, or place them in different positions in attack. It is no longer uncommon to see a winger getting the ball up, or a full-back defending a strong winger. And not just on a few possessions.
“I just feel like an outsider” replies Klay Thompson about his positioning. “I can defend in the racket. I can defend against point guards. I consider myself a big all-around outsider, or a fullback. This is my natural position. “
“I had been through so much, that I enjoyed just being on the pitch and failing”
In training, Klay Thompson has what it takes to work with Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole and even Leandro Barbosa, now a member of Steve Kerr’s staff.
“During the first month, defending on Barbosa was so difficult for me” remembers Klay Thompson. “He’s still faster than a lot of guys in the NBA. I thought back to all the times I had defended against him in the past, and I was able to stay ahead of LB. Now it’s different. “
After 16 matches he feels much better, and he knows his knee and Achilles tendon are healed. There is no more apprehension. There is no longer the fear that his shot will never come back.
” It was difficult at first” he acknowledges. “I didn’t have my usual playing time. My shots were all short. Now I’m getting my legs back and feeling so much better as the weeks go by. It’s huge for me to be at the cut of the All-Star Game and to have 16 games in the legs. Shooter, I was prepared for it. I had been through so much, that I enjoyed just being out there and failing. I have a different take on what failure really is. These are not missed shots. It’s not to take a spanking. It is the effort, the energy and the joy with which you play. When we do that, we don’t really fail. If you do these three things every night, you can accept making mistakes, getting dunked, getting countered, exploding on defense. That’s failure for me: not giving yourself this opportunity to make a big effort every night.“