“He really needed this career change”: Steve Kerr opens up on ‘unflappable’ Klay Thompson’s post-injury return and how he wasn’t the same since

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Golden State Warriors

Steve Kerr thought Klay Thompson needed the move to Dallas. [photo: Imagn]

Team USA basketball coach Steve Kerr has been hounded by questions about Klay Thompson since the former Golden State Warriors guard left the Bay Area. After 13 seasons with the Dubs, Thompson took his talents elsewhere. He signed a three-year, $50 million contract, following a sign-and-trade deal, to play for the Dallas Mavericks.

In one of his press conferences in Las Vegas, Kerr gave his first statement about Thompson. The multi-titled coach gave his gratitude to the iconic shooter for his 13 years with the Dubs. Kerr called Thompson’s relationship with the organization “meaningful” and “amazing” and added that they will miss him.

On Tuesday, Steve Kerr added more context to Klay Thompson’s situation via the “Willard & Dibs” show:

“From 2014-19, pre-injury, Klay was unflappable. He rarely required much maintenance from me as a coach. He was just so happy playing and playing at a high level. I would check in with him and he was always fine and loving life. That changed after the two injuries.

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“We were always in great stead with Klay in terms of our relationship and communicating how we felt about him. In the end, he really needed this career change and I think it’s going to be good for him.”

Pre-injury Klay Thompson averaged 19.2 points on 45.7% shooting, including 42.2% from deep to go with 3.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists per game. In three years after two brutal injuries, he put up 19.9 points on 43.3% shooting, including 39.7% from behind the arc. He also added 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

The numbers aren’t that far apart but there were long stretches where Thompson looked a shadow of his former self. It didn’t help that the criticism was endless, particularly on nights when he didn’t have his shooting night.

Klay Thompson took shots at his critics but behind the scenes, Steve Kerr just said the lambasting had its effect.

Steve Kerr benched Klay Thompson last season

In mid-February last season, the Golden State Warriors trailed 126-123 with 39.6 seconds left against the LA Clippers. Brandin Podziemski’s corner triple inched the Dubs closer to their visitors. Steve Kerr wanted his team to defend without fouling as there was plenty of time left on the clock. Klay Thompson ruined all that with a quick foul against Russell Westbrook off the inbounds pass.

Kerr and the bench’s reaction said it all. Steph Curry was shocked but gave his hand to show support to his longtime partner. “Killa Klay” refused to take the hand as both teams walked to the other end for Westbrook’s two free throws.

In the next game, which was against the Utah Jazz, Steve Kerr benched Klay Thompson for rookie Brandin Podziemski. Kerr’s shocking move broke a string of 699 consecutive games started for the five-time All-Star in 10 seasons.

The benching and failure to get a big extension were thought to be the writings on the wall about Thompson’s future in Golden State. It didn’t help that he closed out the season scoreless in a win-or-go-home play-in showdown against the Sacramento Kings.

Thompson’s final line for the Warriors was 0 points on 0-for-10 shooting, including 0-for-6 from deep. He added four rebounds and one assist to his miserable night. Steve Kerr said after the game that he would want to have him back despite the forgettable ending. The Warriors and Thompson couldn’t agree to get that done.

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