Must Klay Thompson Travel Far And Wide ‘Til He Is Beside Someone Who Is Not Draymond Green?
1:01 PM EST on February 6, 2024
The NBA's trade deadline is Thursday afternoon. Teams have until then to decide how they want to spend the remainder of this regular season, and to what levels of upheaval they are willing to go in pursuit of their goals. The advent of the play-in tournament has had the intended effect of making this a more challenging calculation for teams stuck in the league's middle class. Some of these shit-heaps might prefer, as a general philosophy of team-building, to bail out of the playoff hunt and stock future goodies, but there's a wide gulf this season separating the lousy (Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, etc.) from the putrid (Washington, Detroit, Charlotte, San Antonio), and plenty of room to do the normal kind of stinking—the largely accidental kind—and grab up some rewards in either direction. Some smart teams might keep their useful players and continue chugging along, and find themselves with a sweet draft lottery pick all the same.
Not all of the league's crappy also-rans would consider that a happy fate, or even a silver-lined one. The Golden State Warriors, for example, extremely do not want to find themselves outside of the playoff picture, under any circumstances. But they also stink a lot, and have spent all but the first two weeks of the season thrashing around in painful mediocrity. The Warriors are presently three games under .500, a game behind the indifferent Utah Jazz for the final spot in the Western Conference play-in tournament, and 5.5 games back of the conference's sixth seed. They haven't risen higher than 10th in the conference since mid-November, they're headed into a brutally tough stretch of schedule, and now they've got just about two days to decide whether this roster, as presently constructed, can surge up the standings and make any noise at all in the playoffs.
Only Stephen Curry is really holding his own. Draymond Green hasn't been his usual one-man defensive wall and valuable linking piece in their offense, and that's even when he is not kicking and punching and karate-chopping opponents. Several of Green's young teammates are finally showing they can be trusted with larger roles, but unfortunately those roles appear to be more in the vein of Plucky Fourth Option than Key Cog In A Contender. That Moses Moody is demonstrably not Jordan Poole is a relief, I'm sure, but he's also not delivering the Warriors to within miles of the promised land.
The saddest underperformer in Golden State's rotation has been Klay Thompson. He can't seem to find his touch, and is shooting career-worst percentages from every part of the floor but the free-throw line, and lately has started to slip out of head coach Steve Kerr's closing lineups. Kerr pinned Thompson to the bench on Friday for the final seven-plus minutes of an eventual road win over the Memphis Grizzlies, and stuck with a lineup that included rookie guard Brandin Podziemski. Thompson returned to the closing lineup in Atlanta the following night, but only after Andrew Wiggins was injured; though Thompson made some positive plays down the stretch, he missed all four of his three-pointers in the fourth quarter and overtime and the shitty Hawks cruised away for a seven-point win. Monday night Thompson was once again benched for the late fourth, even with Wiggins on the shelf, this time so that Kerr could use Brazilian developmental-league call-up Gui Santos in a tight finish against the Nets in Brooklyn.
The Warriors eked out the win, but Thompson cannot help but feel somewhat bummed about recent career developments. Thompson was asked about this stuff in the postgame locker room, and was in the middle of giving a thoughtful and honest answer about his shooting frustrations when Green, standing nearby and loudly singing "I'd Do Anything" from the musical Oliver!, decided to bring up Klay's new absence from the closing lineups and to imply very forcefully that actually no one should care about that. "What are they talking about, you ain't play to finish the game," asked Green, directly over his teammate. Without waiting for an answer—the question in fact was not about Thompson not finishing the game—Green continued: "I got benched Game 5 of the Finals. Who the fuck cares." This was super awkward, not least because moments later a visibly piqued Thompson would go on to admit that he in fact does care about it.
Following Green's prompt, Thompson was asked whether sitting out crunch-time is an adjustment. "Yeah. You kidding me? To go from, you know, one of the best players," explained Thompson, in what had become a painfully awkward exchange, "it's hard for any player. I'll be honest with you." It was about here when Green returned to belting the Oliver! tune (Update: The NBA scrubbed their video of this event from YouTube so now you'll have to settle for this lightly edited one):
It's hard enough to confront the cruel passage of time and the inexorable decline of one's utility without having Draymond Green soundtrack the slide with screeched show tunes. If the Warriors aren't ready to throw in the towel on this era of contending, they could at least do Thompson the kindness of moving Green's locker to the opposite side of the room.