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    Steph Curry Returns, and Golden State Beats the Nuggets

    Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Golden State’s championship core, are back together in the postseason for the first time since 2019.Klay Thompson was splashing 3-pointers. Draymond Green was making stops and deftly finding open cutters. Stephen Curry drew several defenders any time he touched the ball.The threesome who redefined basketball en route to winning multiple championships with the Golden State Warriors reunited in the playoffs on Saturday for the first time since 2019. And like in many games of that era, the high-octane Warriors were dominant, defeating the Denver Nuggets in the opener of their first-round playoff matchup, 123-107.In a surprise move, Curry began the game on the bench. In his place, Coach Steve Kerr started the third-year guard Jordan Poole, who made a leap this year. The move appeared to be aimed at keeping Curry on a strict minutes limit. This was his first game since March 16, when he injured his left foot against the Boston Celtics.The swap paid off. Poole was exceptional in his first career playoff game, scoring 30 points — a game high — on 9 for 13 shooting, electrifying the Chase Center crowd in San Francisco. He played as if he had long been a mainstay of postseason basketball. At one point, he did a dance after scoring a difficult basket. It was that kind of night. On a team of stars who had played on some of the most talented teams in league history, it was a 22-year-old selected with the 28th pick of the 2019 draft who stole the show as Golden State attempted to recapture the N.B.A. throne.Jordan Poole has been a key source of offense for Golden State this season, with injuries keeping top stars off the court for months at a time. He had 30 points on Saturday.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images“Jordan Poole, wow, what a playoff debut,” Thompson raved to reporters after the game, adding: “We should be very grateful for Jordan’s development and the type of player he’s become because he’s just incredible. I mean, what a star in the making.”The last time Curry came off the bench during the playoffs was May 1, 2018, the second game of the Western Conference semifinals against the New Orleans Pelicans, when he was returning from a knee injury. Saturday against Denver was only the third playoff game of Curry’s career in which he played but didn’t start.He entered the contest about halfway through the first quarter to a loud ovation. Almost immediately, Curry made his presence felt, finding Thompson for an open 3-pointer from the corner and sneaking a pass between two defenders to an open Green for a dunk. Otherwise, he struggled, shooting 5 for 13 from the field for 16 points. But his presence alone still drew outsize attention from the Nuggets, and the Warriors outscored Denver by 17 points with Curry on the floor.“It was nice to feel the playoff vibe again, and obviously it is different coming off the bench and trying to make the most of the minutes that are appropriate right now,” Curry said.Poole’s strong play presents a dilemma — of the good kind — for Kerr going forward. With Curry back, can he send Poole to the bench for the rest of the playoffs?“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Kerr said.Poole’s strong play will give Kerr more options for the rest of the series. For one thing, he can deploy a three-guard lineup of Curry, Thompson and Poole — three playmakers and shooters. It’s reminiscent of the closing small-ball lineups that the Warriors used to deploy at their best during their championship runs of the last decade — except with Poole playing the part of Andre Iguodala, who now has a smaller role.An added benefit of Poole’s emergence is that it allows Golden State to ease Curry’s ramp up coming off the foot injury. Kerr declined to say whether Curry would come off the bench again for Game 2 on Monday.Klay Thompson had 19 points, including 5 of 10 3-pointers, in Golden State’s win over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday. He injured his knee in his last playoff game, in 2019.Jeff Chiu/Associated PressThompson, meanwhile, looked like the player he was before he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the 2019 N.B.A. finals. He moved swiftly to find open looks for himself, en route to five 3-pointers and 19 points overall.“Before the tip I thought about all the days in the gym, the days in a doctor’s office, on the surgery table and then just to be flying up and down the court, knocking shots down and playing solid defense, it was a surreal moment for me,” Thompson said after the game.Denver, on the other hand, will have to go back to the drawing board.Golden State was able to flummox the Nuggets’ top star, Nikola Jokic, who is the favorite to win his second Most Valuable Player Award. The Warriors constantly forced Jokic into difficult shots and frustrated him with a steady stream of double teams. They also attempted to tire him out defensively by setting up possessions with him as the primary defender. On possession after possession, Jokic was sent scurrying after the speedy Golden State ballhandlers.“They were just better than us in every aspect of the game,” Jokic said.But the Warriors also have Green, who won the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2016-17. He was able to do something most defenders can’t: guard Jokic one on one for multiple possessions, freeing his Golden State teammates to stay attached to other Nuggets players Jokic might pass to.By the time the fourth quarter came around, Jokic looked exhausted. He finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. He went to the free throw line two times, despite attempting 25 shots. Denver appeared to be frustrated with the officiating.“I think there were some times where, you know, his jersey was getting pulled out a lot,” Nuggets Coach Mike Malone said. “So I don’t know. We got to see how they’re guarding him and how we can make them pay for how they’re guarding him.”Golden State’s Draymond Green had 12 points, 6 rebounds and 9 assists against Denver on Saturday. He missed dozens of regular-season games with a back injury.Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesWhen Jokic was asked about the officiating after the game by a reporter, he said, “My friend, I think I’m going to get fined if I answer.”The playoff opener was a return to the postseason spotlight for the core Golden State players who won championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Curry, Green, Thompson and Iguodala are the top four leaders in franchise history for postseason games played. But this was the first time, in large part because of injuries, that the Warriors had made the playoffs since 2019, when the team lost in the finals to the Toronto Raptors in six games. The only time all four of them played in the same game this year was on Jan. 9, Thompson’s first game back after missing two seasons with leg injuries. Green only started that game briefly, to support Thompson, before sitting the rest of the night.Both teams had significant injury issues during the season. Green missed more than two months of the regular season for Golden State with a back injury. For Denver, Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray missed most or all of the season; they often can take the pressure off Jokic for playmaking.This was Denver’s fourth straight year making the playoffs; the team has made it out of the first round each of the past three seasons.There is a source of solace for Denver: In each of those series, the Nuggets lost the first game. The Nuggets will attempt to tie the seven-game series at one game apiece on Monday. But they looked overmatched on Saturday night.“We can’t beat ourselves and the Warriors in the same game,” Malone said. “We did that tonight.” More

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    Klay Thompson Returns to the Warriors

    He barked at officials. He launched 3-pointers. He played off the crowd. And he soared for an emphatic dunk.Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors has never been known as a leaper. He used to have a running competition with Zaza Pachulia, a former teammate, to see who could finish each season with the most dunks. As more of an earthbound athlete, Thompson knew his dunks were cause for celebration.And that was before he missed the past two-plus seasons with a pair of serious injuries.On Sunday, after 941 days away, Thompson was back in uniform. His hair was longer, and he had added a headband — part of a rebrand that had been born out of months of relative “solitude,” he said — but he was characteristically fearless in front of an adoring crowd at Chase Center in San Francisco.That much was clear late in the second quarter, when he found himself being guarded on the perimeter by Jarrett Allen, a 6-foot-10 center for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Recognizing the mismatch, Thompson blew past Allen with a crossover dribble, accelerated toward the hoop and then dunked over two other defenders.this belongs in a museum#KlayThompson || #NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/PrzeThHwMK— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 10, 2022
    “It felt so good to throw that down,” Thompson said. “I did not expect that.”About an hour after Golden State’s 96-82 win, Thompson was seated on a dais at his news conference as he glanced at a box score. He checked his numbers: 17 points in 20 minutes, 7 of 18 shooting from the field, 3 of 8 from the 3-point line. But his production was not important.Not after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Game 6 of the 2019 N.B.A. finals, then rupturing his right Achilles’ tendon before the start of last season. Not after missing so many games, and enduring so many hours of physical therapy, and spending so much time away from the court.There were moments, Thompson said, when he wondered whether he would ever find his way back. Would his surgically repaired limbs have the same pop? Would he regain his feel for the ball? Would his body hold up through the rigors of rehab?On Sunday, joy was a box score and seeing his name again, proof that the game did not desert him.“I’m proud of myself for persevering,” he said, adding: “It’s only up from here.”Thompson has long been one of the league’s most popular players — respected by opponents, revered by teammates, beloved by fans. A three-time champion and five-time All-Star, he loves hoops, the ocean and his bulldog, Rocco. He reads the newspaper. He rides an electric bike. He considers himself a concerned citizen, going so far as to share his opinions about faulty scaffolding with local reporters.“Everybody connects with him,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said, “because he’s just authentic. Klay is just Klay.”Which is one of the reasons his absence was such a bummer. How long was Thompson gone? The N.B.A. wrapped up a pandemic-stricken season at Disney World. The Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks won championships. The Warriors moved into a new arena, then rebuilt their roster after plunging to the depths of the league standings.Thompson, meantime, played chess and bought a 37-foot fishing boat. He signed a five-year contract extension worth about $190 million, determined to one day make good on Golden State’s investment. He made cameos with NBC Bay Area’s broadcast crew, offering game analysis and updates on his progress.“Just a little bored at times,” he said during a game last season.Mostly, though, he rehabbed. And rehabbed. And rehabbed some more, fighting the twin demons of self-doubt and impatience. In late November, after Golden State won another game without him, he draped a towel over his head as the arena emptied out, and remained on the bench by himself for about a half-hour. By then, the road back had been too long and too hard. His return was close, but not close enough.“Nobody could possibly know what he went through,” Kerr said before Sunday’s game.Thompson dunked in the second quarter.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesYet Thompson’s familiar hunger was always there, lurking behind all those squats and sprints, and when he was omitted from the league’s 75th anniversary team this season, he expressed his dissatisfaction before donning a No. 77 jersey for subsequent workouts. (A total of 76 players were selected for the team.)At a news conference in November, Thompson alluded to the challenges he had faced in recovering from his injuries, describing many of the obstacles as more mental than physical, though he stopped short of sharing specifics.“I try not to revisit those times,” he said, adding: “I’m lucky I play in the era I do because technology and science have allowed athletes to come back better than ever.”He wanted to return as the type of player who was capable of supplying terrific defense. He wanted to return as the type of player who could score 37 points in a single quarter. He wanted to return as the type of player who could help his team make a deep postseason run. He did not, in other words, want to return before he was ready, as a shell of his former self. He knew who he once was, and who he could be again.“Which is one of the best players in the world,” he said.Golden State branded Sunday as #KlayDay. His teammates showed up to the arena wearing Thompson jerseys. Fans cheered for Thompson every time he took a shot — in pregame warm-ups. He savored being introduced as one of the team’s starters. He proceeded to cram five field-goal attempts into his first 4 minutes 23 seconds of playing time.“He wasn’t shy, was he?” Kerr asked.Thompson took a 3 on Sunday night.John Hefti/Associated PressThompson found his rhythm as the game wore on. He barked at officials. He launched 3-pointers. He played off the crowd. And he soared for that dunk, which had his teammates tumbling off the bench.“When Klay had perfect knees and Achilles’, I don’t remember him dunking like that,” Kevon Looney said.“It was vicious,” Stephen Curry said.In the process, the Warriors improved to 30-9, having already reasserted themselves as contenders. Thompson might be back — a huge personal victory — but he said he still had big goals. Why not chase another title? He now knows what is possible. More

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    Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson's N.B.A. Returns Prompt Divergent Questions

    Thompson’s comeback restores the Warriors’ backcourt, one of the most symbiotic connections in sports. Irving’s return raises concerns about the Nets’ lineup disruptions.It is a tale of two returns.Kyrie Irving is back with the Nets — well, on a part-time basis at least — after spending the season sidelined for reasons of his own making: the stubborn refusal of a Covid-19 vaccination.Klay Thompson will soon suit up for the Golden State Warriors after 30 months in which unlikely injuries pried him away from basketball. Thirty months, two and a half seasons, of hard and sometimes heartbreaking rehab.Thompson’s comeback brings us the opportunity to marvel again at one of the most symbiotic connections in sports. From 2012 until his initial injury in 2019, Thompson and Stephen Curry, his close friend and backcourt mate, offered steady lessons in combined greatness: ballet-like cutting and passing, orbital jumpers from every angle — all of it performed in remarkable tandem.We finally get to see Klay and Steph, Part II.Thompson’s return does bring about questions, but they are as simple and straightforward as his pull-up 3-pointers. Will he return to the All-Star form that helped lead Golden State to three N.B.A. titles? And if so, how long will it take?Stephen Curry, left, has kept the Warriors atop the standings, but nothing will feel quite right until Thompson is back in the mix.Jeff Chiu/Associated PressIrving’s comeback is another matter altogether. His return is a gamble. First, it sends a dubious message about personal responsibility during a public crisis. It also leaves the Nets in a muddle. The team is close to realizing its significant dreams, even as it now operates under the shadow of Irving’s most recent act: Here one game, gone the next.Few in basketball have ever been as elusive as Irving is when he winds through opposing teams and slices down the court — a fact underscored by Irving’s return to the Nets on Wednesday, when he scored 22 points and helped lead the team back from a 19-point deficit to defeat the Indiana Pacers, 129-121.Irving is just as hard to pin down off the hardwood. There may not be an N.B.A. point guard as fine at getting his teammates involved with pinpoint passing. But he also has a reputation for a history of being an erratic personality who can just as easily implode teams. (See: Boston Celtics; Cleveland Cavaliers.)Irving’s belief that the earth is flat? That was once a funny sideshow that he couldn’t quite explain in any manner that made sense.His refusal to be vaccinated during a pandemic that has killed at least 5 million worldwide and more than 830,000 Americans, with many of the hardest-hit communities being the Black and Brown neighborhoods that Irving takes pride in helping? That’s a perplexing travesty.What a difference three months makes in this troubled world. In October, Nets officials were adamant they would not allow Irving on their team so long as he refused to abide by New York City mandates requiring workers at venues as large as the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden to inoculate against the virus.Why bother if Irving could play only when the team was on the road?“Each member of our organization must pull in the same direction,” General Manager Sean Marks said.Of course, the Nets waffled. Like almost every team in the N.B.A., they’ve been trotting out patchwork lineups filled with minor-league replacements because Covid-19 protocols have sidelined so many regulars. Never mind that by this week, every player kept from the team because of positive coronavirus tests had returned — the Nets had cover to reverse course on Irving.Brooklyn made a business decision, altering its stated principles, even as New York City finds itself swamped by another surge fueled by another coronavirus variant in this plague. Irving is back, adding to the bottom line that really matters in sports: winning and the heady financial rewards that come with it.The Nets, already gifted with Kevin Durant and James Harden, are chasing a championship and Irving’s return brings with him not questions of wonder and potential, but of logistics.With Irving, left, James Harden, and Kevin Durant, the Brooklyn Nets’ big three has the talent to win a championship.Darron Cummings/Associated PressDoes Kyrie Irving give the Nets the best chance to win a championship if he can’t play at home, in Manhattan against the crosstown Knicks or in Toronto versus the rival Raptors because vaccination is a requisite for entering Canada?The Coronavirus Pandemic: Key Things to KnowCard 1 of 6The global surge. More

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    Warriors Among N.B.A.'s Best Even Without Klay Thompson

    Golden State is among the N.B.A.’s best teams, even without one of its best players in the injured Thompson. And it’s not just because of Stephen Curry.There he was on the court before a game in San Francisco, dressed in the uniform the rest of his team would wear to play that night against the Charlotte Hornets — striped socks and all. Golden State guard Klay Thompson traveled around the arc for several minutes practicing 3-pointers.He’s close to a return. He can feel it. His teammates can feel it.In the past few months, Thompson, sidelined for more than two years with two serious leg injuries, has been cleared to try the types of movements he’ll use in games. These are the movements that helped him score 37 points in a quarter or 60 points while dribbling just 11 times.“Once he got to that stage it was like a cloud lifted,” Golden State Coach Steve Kerr said.Not just for Thompson, for the whole team.They ended Wednesday’s game tied with the Utah Jazz and the Miami Heat for the best record in the N.B.A., at 6-1. They did it by beating a thrilling young Hornets team, 114-92. While his teammates wait for Thompson, they’ve made sure they’ll be poised as a legitimate threat to win the Western Conference after he returns.“We got a run going on so we’re just trying to stay with it,” said guard Jordan Poole, who scored 31 points and grabbed 4 steals on Wednesday.Poole has been a big part of Golden State’s recent success as the team’s starting shooting guard in Thompson’s absence. He has leaned on Thompson and Stephen Curry for handling the ebbs and flows of being in that position. Wednesday’s game followed a relative shooting slump for Poole, who became no less aggressive through it. He shot 16 3-pointers against the Hornets, making seven.Golden State drafted Poole late in the first round in 2019, just after the last of its five consecutive trips to the N.B.A. finals, which resulted in three championships — and just after Thompson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. And so began an unusual rebuilding project.Golden State fortified its roster with lottery picks while it waited through Thompson’s knee injury and a later injury to Curry. Then Thompson tore his right Achilles’ tendon in November 2020.That month, Golden State selected James Wiseman with the second overall pick in the draft. He’s been unavailable this year with an injury as well. Jonathan Kuminga, the seventh overall pick in this year’s draft, has also missed time with an injury, delaying his development.To top it off, Curry wasn’t feeling well on Wednesday, Kerr said.For a while the Hornets took advantage of some sloppy play by Golden State. Kerr got caught pouting during the first quarter.Forward Draymond Green noticed and told him to buck up. The team needed his energy.“I was kind of embarrassed,” Kerr told reporters after the game, smiling at the thought. “After all the turnovers I was like, ‘Fine, fine, whatever.’ Acting like they were on their own out there. It was not my best moment as a coach.”The team has shown repeatedly this season, though, that it has developed enough depth to overcome challenges, self-created or otherwise.That strong defensive performance proved critical on Wednesday. The Hornets entered the game as the highest scoring team in the league, and Golden State held them under 100 points. A dazzling young team with two burgeoning stars in LaMelo Ball (14 points and 8 assists on Wednesday) and Miles Bridges (32 points and 9 rebounds) got a history lesson in the third quarter. That’s when Golden State likes to deliver its kick.Gary Payton II was a big part of the team’s defensive success during the game.Jeff Chiu/Associated PressWhen Golden State was dominating the league a few years ago, it didn’t matter what its opponents did in the first half — a third-quarter domination by Golden State would bury them.The script was a little bit different on Wednesday night.Against the Hornets, Gary Payton II energized the team with a memorable dunk, plus steals, blocks and deflections.“This is what I’m here for,” he said. “Just to come in and spark whatever we need to spark on the defensive end and get us going. You know our offense, we can do anything.”The son of the Hall of Fame defender Gary Payton, he had earned Golden State’s 15th roster spot with his defense. The 28-year-old journeyman had three steals and a block to go with 14 points and played in a way that Kerr said earned him regular playing time.“We’re starting to build an identity and it’s very much defensive minded,” Kerr said. “Which is kind of fun.”After an active final stretch from Payton, Kerr wanted to let the crowd fete him. He removed him from the game with 2 minutes 23 seconds left so the fans could chant his name. As they did, Kerr noticed Green at the free-throw line applauding Payton as well.Thompson, his lightly worn uniform traded in for black denim, wasn’t playing, but he wasn’t absent either. He sat on the bench and marveled at the team he saw before him — particularly Payton.“I can watch Gary Payton II play defense all night long,” he wrote on Twitter, shortly after the game ended.Said Payton, when asked about Thompson’s tweet: “I can watch Klay Thompson shoot the ball all day long. And I can’t wait to watch that all game long.”Klay Thompson watched from the bench Wednesday. Coach Steve Kerr won’t rush his return.Jeff Chiu/Associated PressKerr said he has no intention of rushing Thompson, knowing the patience necessary when a player returns from an Achilles’ tendon injury.“Generally speaking, the ones who have waited a full year plus have done much better,” Kerr said before Wednesday’s game. Thompson had surgery to repair his Achilles’ tendon on Nov. 25, 2020. After all these months, what’s another? More

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    Klay Thompson Finally Found Love. With His Boat.

    Injury woes sent Thompson, the Golden State guard, looking for solace. He found it on the water. No bananas allowed.SAN FRANCISCO — Klay Thompson commutes to work in a 37-foot fishing boat.Out on the open water, he can forget about the disappointment and the frustration. He can take solace in the cool breeze. Finally nearing a return to the court for the Golden State Warriors after missing the past two seasons because of injuries, Thompson has found a new hobby that has been especially therapeutic.“You can’t have a bad day when you’re on the boat,” he said.So he fishes and explores deserted coves — and uses his Axopar 37 Cabin to avoid Bay Area traffic.“It’s been so good for my mental health,” said Thompson, the star shooting guard who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the 2019 N.B.A. finals and then tore his right Achilles’ tendon before the start of last season. “When the days would get really tough, I would take a cruise into the city or toward Oakland or just be out in nature. It always helps.”Thompson has come up with a couple of names for the boat. One is Nordic Knife. (As he recently explained to NBC Sports Bay Area, “She was made in Finland, so she’s Norwegian, I think.”) The other is Splash Express, for whenever friends are on board.“I fell in love with all the little things,” Thompson said in an interview, “whether it’s navigating, cleaning her, tidying her up — all the stuff you would never think of when driving a car.”Thompson is well aware that he often refers to his boat as if it were a living, breathing person.“I know,” he said. “That’s how much I respect her.”He has gone so far as to adhere to certain seafaring superstitions. Among them: a hard-and-fast ban on bananas, since they are believed to invite bad energy to the boat. It is a difficult one for Thompson. “Because I love bananas,” he said.Coach Steve Kerr encourages his players to have outside interests, for balance. Stephen Curry golfs. Draymond Green dabbles with broadcasting. Thompson pilots a high-end watercraft with supercharged twin engines and an enclosed cabin.“Being on the water is a safe space for him,” Curry said. “He’s outside, and he has that freedom to go wherever he wants to go out there.”Growing up in Southern California, Thompson was not the product of a “family of boaters,” he said. But he has always enjoyed the ocean. He finds the water peaceful and calming, and the goal of acquiring a boat of his own was spurred by Anthony Nuccio, his best friend since preschool. Nuccio would take Thompson fishing on his 1976 Aquasport.“He kept talking about getting one for years,” Nuccio said. “We would send pictures of boats back and forth to each other.”For a long time, Thompson made do with a dinghy, which he would board with his bulldog, Rocco. (Thompson did all the rowing.)It was not until Thompson was injured that he was motivated enough to invest in a full-fledged watercraft. A couple of months after tearing his A.C.L., Thompson was rehabbing with Rex Butler, who is a sports performance specialist and a recreational boater. When Butler learned that Thompson was looking to buy something, Butler showed him photos of an Axopar. Thompson was smitten.“I loved her lines so much,” he said.At the time, Thompson was dealing with the anguish of not being able to play basketball. The days were long, and his rehabilitation was difficult. He knew he needed something to take his mind off his troubles. He needed a boat. He conferred with Nuccio, who found a dealer in San Diego named — believe it or not — Kenyon Martin, a brand manager for Seattle Yachts who happens to have the same name as the former N.B.A. power forward.“I thought you’d be taller,” Thompson told Martin when he met him at his showroom.Thompson and Nuccio browsed the inventory and then test drove an Axopar. Retail price: north of $300,000, though it was available at a discount because it had been lightly used. Thompson signed a $190 million contract extension in 2019 but still appreciates a deal.Klay Thompson and his boat dealer, Kenyon Martin, on his test drive.Courtesy of Anthony Nuccio“Wow, this is it,” Thompson said as he took the wheel from Martin.Martin customized the boat with underwater lights and an infrared camera so that Thompson could operate it at night. Martin also connected him with a boat captain who trained him.“It’s not like a car where you just flip someone the keys and you’re like, ‘Yeah, you’re good to go,’” Martin said.Thompson said it had taken several months before he felt confident enough to man the boat by himself. In the meantime, he leaned on Nuccio for guidance. Thompson also learned to spear fish.“I love to move my body, and I was going through such a strenuous rehab,” he said. “So to be able to do a hobby that felt refreshing to me and see the world in a different way, it was a dream come true.”Thompson eventually had the boat shipped to the Bay Area, where it became apparent that he was still grasping the nuances of boat ownership. Whenever he commuted to Chase Center, the waterfront arena where Golden State practices and plays its home games, he was leaving his boat in other people’s assigned spots at a nearby boatyard. Mike Brown, Golden State’s associate head coach, overheard that Thompson was causing some hubbub.“He was just docking his boat wherever he wanted,” Brown said. “And I was like, ‘Klay, you can’t park your boat there!’”Arvind Patel, the proprietor of the boatyard, enlightened Thompson on the protocols and was so charmed by him that he invited him to dock Splash Express next to his own 60-foot sailboat.It was the start of an unlikely bromance between Thompson, a five-time All-Star, and Patel, a 70-something grandfather who runs start-ups in Silicon Valley — and does not like to disclose his exact age. (“I’m old,” he said.) Patel has taken an interest in teaching Thompson more about boating, and they recently took a day trip together in search of halibut.“We caught two nice fish and had a wonderful time,” Patel said. “It’s actually kind of a pure friendship because I’m not that into basketball. I’m into it when the local team is winning. I’m a sunny-day fan. So now, if I need tickets, I say, ‘Hey, Mr. Klay!’”Teammates have taken up Thompson on his open offer to join him on the high seas. A trip comes with the caveat that they are likely to make a cameo on Thompson’s Instagram feed.“Got rook on the boat with me,” Thompson said in a recent post, gesturing toward the second-year center James Wiseman behind him. “He don’t know a damn thing, but I’m teaching him the ropes.”Leandro Barbosa, a former teammate who joined Kerr’s staff last season, has been a regular. Barbosa and Thompson will take their mountain bikes with them and dock at one of the small islands in the bay so they can ride the trails.Brown has so far resisted Thompson’s appeals to let him take him out.“I’m not a boat guy,” Brown said. “Maybe if we were in Turks and Caicos.”Thompson, who could return to the court for Golden State by late December or early January, said he could see himself getting into sailing.“The ocean and free diving and spear fishing and boating bring me joy,” he said, “second only to winning basketball games, really.” More

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    LeBron James and Stephen Curry Test Different Paths Back to N.B.A. Peak

    James’s Los Angeles Lakers revamped their roster in a bid for another championship. For Golden State and Curry, familiar faces were just fine.LOS ANGELES — On the cusp of his 19th N.B.A. season, Carmelo Anthony belongs to a new team but harbors the same ambitions: winning his first championship. In that regard, he is not alone on the Los Angeles Lakers, a collection of veterans who will form one of the league’s most curious experiments.“We have too much experience on this team to think anything other than we’ll figure it out,” Anthony said. “But it all takes time.”After a winless preseason, the Lakers will get going in an official capacity on Tuesday night, when they play their season opener against the Golden State Warriors, a franchise that has recently gone about its business in a decidedly different way.While the Lakers have been a tear-down project — LeBron James, who signed with the team in 2018, is the longest-tenured player on the roster — Golden State has been busy remodeling while keeping intact the essential core from its not-so-distant championship era, all in the hope of staging a resurrection with the help of some new pieces.Two teams. Two approaches. And an early-season, but much-anticipated, litmus test at Staples Center on the viability of each.“I think we’ll be ready,” Anthony said. “You can feel it.”Russell Westbrook, at 32, adds a scoring punch to a team with several old-for-the-N.B.A. veterans.Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated PressThe Warriors — remember them? — are running it back with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and, eventually, Klay Thompson, whom the team expects to return by late December or early January after he missed the past two seasons with injuries. Thompson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the 2019 finals, then ruptured his right Achilles’ tendon last November.“It doesn’t work without Klay,” Curry said in an interview last week. “So there’s definitely anticipation. And we feel like we’ll have three seasons in one this year: this first chapter until he gets back, reintegrating him into the fold, and then the playoff chase down the stretch. So there’s a lot to look forward to.”Without Thompson — and largely without Curry, who broke his hand and missed all but five games — Golden State hibernated through the 2019-20 season, finishing with the worst record in the league. Last season, as the team continued to groom prospects like Jordan Poole, a first-round draft pick in 2019, and Juan Toscano-Anderson, who came out of the G League, the Warriors went 39-33.Now Golden State is nearly whole. And the team has welcomed the reappearance of a familiar figure: Andre Iguodala, a key cog in the team’s five straight trips to the finals, from 2015 to 2019, which produced three championships.“We built something special here,” said Iguodala, who has rejoined Golden State after spending most of the past two seasons with the Miami Heat.While Iguodala was gone, Golden State experienced its share of turbulence. But the franchise maintained a sense of stability. Curry and Green were still around. Thompson would be back at some point. And Steve Kerr, now entering his eighth season as the team’s coach, was at the helm. The pieces were there. It would just take some time for them all to coalesce again.“Our expectations are definitely higher this year than they have been the last couple of years,” said Kerr, whose team went 5-0 in the preseason. “It’s a really fun group to coach.”The Lakers will be playing under an even brighter spotlight after overhauling their roster (again) this summer. They signed Anthony, traded for Russell Westbrook and acquired veterans like Kent Bazemore, DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo while jettisoning the bulk of their personnel from last season. Gone are many of the role players from their championship run in 2020: Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.The Lakers are not big on continuity, demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice draft picks and young players for name-brand stars of a certain vintage. If there is urgency, it stems in large part from the fact that James is 36 and has struggled with injuries in recent years. No athlete can operate at the height of his powers forever, not even James. And so the Lakers have gone about mortgaging their future in pursuit of another championship now — if they can create chemistry in short order while avoiding more health problems.“I think our basketball I.Q., our talent and our skill will, for the most part, get us there,” Anthony said, “and then, the cohesiveness of being together and playing together will take us over the top. We understand where we want to be and where we’re going to be, but we’re not there yet.”Draymond Green, right, provided a critical defensive complement to the offense of Stephen Curry, left, during Golden State’s championship runs.John Hefti/Associated PressThe team has acknowledged that it will be a work in progress. As James put it before the start of training camp, “I don’t think it’s going to be like peanut butter and jelly to start the season.”Any mention of preseason basketball ought to come with the disclaimer that the games are fairly meaningless. But the Lakers did go 0-6, which was enough to raise some important questions: Is this a hodgepodge roster? Can a team this old withstand the rigors of an 82-game regular season? And, perhaps most important, can Westbrook and James, two ball-dominant players, coexist in a productive way?Frank Vogel, the team’s coach, said he had no such concerns.“There’s definitely a willingness for those guys to share and sacrifice,” he said, adding, “It’s tough to get 15-plus-year vets to be completely serious about the preseason.”For his part, James said Monday that he had fully recovered from the ankle injury that slowed him toward the end of last season — “I didn’t do much basketball for the first two months of the summer,” he said — and that he was ready for a fresh start, one that will come against an opponent that, unlike the Lakers, hopes to reach into its past. More

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    Andre Iguodala Plans to End His Career With Golden State

    Iguodala said he plans to return on a one-year deal after a detour to the Miami Heat. “The opportunity to end it here was just something special,” he said.Andre Iguodala found himself in recent months in discussions with his few N.B.A. peers remaining, the ones who sculpted paralleling journeys, from being teenagers to experiencing parenthood, from playing for free in high school gyms to playing for millions in front of thousands. More

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    The N.B.A. Misses Klay Thompson

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The NBA SeasonVirus Hotspots in the N.B.A.Will the Harden Trade Work Out?The N.B.A. Wanted HerAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyThe N.B.A. Misses Klay ThompsonThompson, the Golden State Warriors’ All-Star guard, is a great shooter, for sure. But his absence, for a second consecutive season because of injury, leaves a hole that goes beyond basketball.Because of injuries, Klay Thompson hasn’t played in a game since the 2019 N.B.A. finals. Warriors General Manager Bob Myers described Thompson as a “corner piece” of Golden State’s puzzle.Credit…Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press, via Associated PressFeb. 1, 2021, 3:00 a.m. ETKlay Thompson could have re-entered the game for the Golden State Warriors, but he knew his work was done. It was Jan. 23, 2015, and Thompson had spent the third quarter scoring a record 37 points without missing a shot against the Sacramento Kings.Early in the fourth quarter, after finishing with 52 points for the game, he grabbed a box score and a seat on the bench.“He probably could’ve broken even more records,” James Michael McAdoo, one of Thompson’s former teammates, recalled in a telephone interview. “But it wasn’t even a thought for him: ‘Nah, man. I’m cool.’ And he treated the rest of the game like he would any other: always engaged, cheering for guys like me when I was getting those garbage minutes.”At the time, the Warriors were just beginning to assert their dominance. They were still a few months from making the first of five straight appearances in the N.B.A. finals, a run that produced three championships. But while Warriors guard Stephen Curry was scripting drama on nearly a nightly basis, it was Thompson and his molten third quarter against the Kings that seemed to signal to the basketball-watching world that the Warriors — officially, undeniably — were different.“It was ridiculous,” Bob Myers, the team’s general manager and president of basketball operations, said in a telephone interview. “Honestly, it’s a blur. That whole season, man, that’s the one where I should’ve just ridden off into the sunset. That’s the one where you’re saying to yourself, ‘Wow, this is a dream.’ Everything was perfect.”Clips of that perfect quarter in that perfect season recently circulated on social media, marking the game’s sixth anniversary while offering a reminder of Thompson’s absence. It has been nearly 20 months since he last appeared in uniform for the Warriors, who have won 26 games without him.After tearing up his left knee in the 2019 N.B.A. finals, Thompson experienced a calamitous setback in November, when he tore his right Achilles’ tendon in an off-season workout. All told, Thompson is expected to miss two full seasons. And in this strange, largely spectator-free period for the league, an endlessly drab atmosphere somehow feels just a bit gloomier because of his absence.“It’s too bad for the league, for us, for everybody,” Myers said. “But mostly, for him.”Thompson, who will turn 31 on Feb. 8, has yet to play a game since re-signing with the Warriors for five years and $190 million in July 2019. The psychological toll has weighed on him. Two seasons of his prime: gone. His teammates hurt for him, too. Curry told The Undefeated that he cried when he learned that Thompson had been injured again. “A lot of tears,” Curry said.Thompson, center, Stephen Curry, right, and Draymond Green, left, were the core of Golden State’s team as it made five straight trips to the N.B.A. finals.Credit…Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesThe jarring part, McAdoo said, was that Thompson had seemed fairly indestructible, rarely missing games through his first eight seasons.“I don’t think I ever even saw him getting therapy,” said McAdoo, who spent three seasons with the Warriors, from 2014 to 2017, and now plays in Japan. “Dude was a tank.”McAdoo, though, recalled how Coach Steve Kerr would often say that teams needed to be good, and they also needed to be lucky. Thompson is coping with his share of bad fortune.“He has faith that he’s going to come back 100 percent,” his father, Mychal Thompson, said in an interview. “He knows he needs to be patient.”Mychal Thompson, a former N.B.A. center, added that his son had been encouraged by the high-level play of the Houston Rockets’ John Wall and the Nets’ Kevin Durant, both of whom missed significant time because of Achilles’ tendon injuries before returning this season. The Warriors are planning/hoping/yearning for Thompson’s return before the start of next season.On Saturday night, Thompson made his first public comments of the season when he joined the NBC Bay Area’s broadcast crew for a stretch of the Warriors’ 118-91 win over the Detroit Pistons.“Just a little bored at times,” Thompson said. “But I’m feeling good. I’m happy to be back with my teammates. Unfortunately, I’m not playing. It kills me every day, but I plan on playing for a long time, and I don’t want to have any mishaps come this rehab.”Thompson, who remains in a walking boot, added that he had been reluctant to make his cameo, but then he saw that the network had produced a branded “Reporter Klay” backdrop for him to use.“Someone went through great lengths to make that happen,” he said, deadpan, “so I felt bad not fulfilling my end of the deal.”Myers likened his job as general manager to assembling a jigsaw puzzle: Say the puzzle is missing a random piece toward the right. Though the missing piece might be noticeable, Myers said, the general idea of the puzzle would still be intact.Now say the puzzle is missing one of the corners.“If you walked into the room and looked at it, you’d say, ‘Where’s the corner piece?’” Myers said. “And I’d say, ‘Well, I can’t find it.’ And you’d say, ‘Well, the puzzle looks screwed up.’ And I’d say, ‘It didn’t come in the box!’ But I know it stands out. Klay is a corner piece.”The Warriors were missing two corner pieces last season. Curry was sidelined for all but five games because of a broken left hand. Thompson split his time between San Francisco and Los Angeles as he focused on rehabilitating his knee. He watched from a remove as the Warriors finished with the worst record in the league.“It’s pretty abrupt to go from five straight finals to just out for the season,” Myers said, “and I think he was just working through how to manage that mentally. I can’t speak for him, but I think he was trying to figure out where to be, and it was challenging.”This season, Curry has returned to his familiar form, and the Warriors — with multiple new pieces — have been mostly competitive after a rocky start. At the same time, Thompson has been a much more consistent presence around the team, taking up residence on the bench at home games — something he did far less often last season.“I think it’s much better for him to be around the guys and feel like you’re a part of it,” Mychal Thompson said. “It helps the time go by faster.”Klay has picked his spots to counsel teammates, like the first-year center James Wiseman, who received several tips from Thompson during a recent game against the Minnesota Timberwolves: Stay aggressive, take care of your body and be a great teammate.“I just love to listen,” Wiseman said in a conference call, “and he can tell.”Thompson was electric against the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 23, 2015, scoring 37 points in the third quarter and 52 points for the night.Credit…Ben Margot/Associated PressThompson has long kept his approach simple. He loves his dog, a bulldog named Rocco, spending time by the water, playing chess and shooting a basketball. His demeanor has not changed since he entered the league in 2011, which is no small feat. He is as popular among his peers as he is with fans. Few players, if any, are less polarizing.“I think what’s most endearing about Klay is that what you see is what you get,” Myers said. “And that is so hard in the N.B.A. It’s such a hard place to not be affected by the money, by the celebrity, by social media, by the fans — who the heck knows? But he’s always put himself and the N.B.A. in the proper place. He’s maintained his center.”The public got a quirky glimpse of that in 2017, and it had nothing to do with his 3-point shooting or his defensive prowess. The Warriors were in New York to play the Nets when Thompson was randomly stopped on the street by a television news reporter who was interviewing people about the dangers of faulty scaffolding. Thompson proceeded to do an on-camera interview in which he explained his mental calculation about whether he walks under scaffolding or around it.“I usually observe if the piping and stuff is new,” he said.When Thompson was later asked about his cameo on the local news, he told reporters that he had wanted to offer his thoughts as a “concerned citizen.”“There are a lot of layers to Klay,” Myers said, “and all of them are good. When you peel them back, you just get more authenticity with him.”McAdoo said he was always struck by Thompson’s pregame ritual of reading the newspaper at his locker. (Thompson has said that it helps him relax.)“And he actually reads it,” McAdoo said. “I just found it so odd: ‘Bro, who still reads the newspaper?’”Myers daydreams about Thompson’s eventual return, he said, and about what it will mean for Thompson and for his teammates. In the meantime, another season lurches along without him. The wait continues.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More