Klay Thompson Fueled By All-Star Rookie Snub
The 2011 NBA rookie class has underwhelmed the masses when viewed as a whole up until this point, but it may not be fair to judge the league’s latest batch under the same scrutiny as years past. After all, they didn’t have the benefit of summer league or a full training camp to get fully acclimated to the pro game thanks to the NBA lockout.
The lockout, which caused the league to condense the current season, has also contributed to a lack of practice time throughout the league – a place where rookies usually develop further.
One rookie who has been able to overcome the early obstacles faced is Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson.
The 6’7 shooting guard currently leads all rookies in three-point accuracy (44 percent) and is averaging 7.3 points per game despite playing behind two guards oozing with All-Star potential in Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry.
It was this early season success which had Thompson fully expecting to hear his name included in the Rising Stars Challenge this past weekend during All-Star festivities.
The invite never came and it’s clear the snub has started to fuel an inner desire within Thompson to put the league on notice of its mistake to omit him.
“I’m going to use it as my motivation, especially this summer when I’m working out with my personal trainer on my skills,” Thompson told HOOSPWORLD referencing his Rising Stars challenge snub. “I’m really going to try and work on my game so people can take notice of me more next year. I felt I played good enough up until that point to be in it, leading all rookies in three-point percentage or whatever, but it’s all good. The NBA went another way. But I’m definitely going to use it as motivation and let them know I belong there.”
Playing behind the established combo of Curry and Ellis at guard would usually mean ‘end of the bench’ status for most rookies, but Thompson has managed to consistently carve his way into head coach Mark Jackson’s nightly rotation.
In fact, Thompson was always warm to playing behind the duo and credits them for making him feel comfortable on the floor.
“I don’t try to complicate things too much,” Thompson said on his role within the offense. “I just try to play my game. I’m a scorer just like those guys. I try to be just as aggressive as them because that’s when I’m at my best – looking for my shot and creating for my teammates. Coach Jackson tells me to play my game and it’s easier to defer to those guys because they’re such good players. But you can’t do that all the time because you have to be a threat out there if you want to keep some balance on this team.”
Coach Jackson has been impressed with the play of his rookie guard and predicts Thompson will have a long and productive playing career as long as he keeps putting the necessary work into his game.
“He’s a student of the game,” Jackson said. “He listens, he works hard, he puts the time in and he continually tries to get better. He’s a knockdown shooter and moves extremely well without the basketball. The next step is now putting the ball on the floor and becoming a playmaker and forcing the issue. He certainly has that ability. It’s good how he’s progressed from day one.”
One area Thompson has had some trouble adjusting to as a rookie is preparing for the sheer number of games on the NBA schedule compared to collegiate athletics.
“I’d say the toughest adjustment is just the amount of games,” Thompson said. “You can’t get too high on one game because you have another game the next night. You can’t let them linger because it’ll force you to have another bad game if you can’t get [previous games] out of your mind. So I’d say the toughest adjustment is the amount of games and secondly is the amount of focus. You have to focus every single day, even at practice.”
Not only are there more games on the docket in the pros, but lottery picks often endure more losing in their first few months as rookies than they have experienced in their entire playing careers up until entering the league.
“No one likes losing,” Thompson told HOOPSWORLD. “I’d say in college losing lingers more because you have only two games per week. But in the NBA you can’t dwell on it because you if you want to be competitive you have to learn and move on to the next game. That’s what good teams do. Everyone hates to lose and losing is the worst feeling in the world but after the game you can’t dwell on it. Come next day you have to focus on the task at hand.”
Full of confidence, Thompson is satisfied right now with how his NBA journey has begun and expected to this level of success based on his mental focus and work ethic.
“It’s what I expected as far as the games and the compressed season, the marathon that is the NBA,” Thompson said. “I talked with a lot of veteran guys who taught me how to stay focused mentally. I’m playing well now and it’s everything I expected.”
Well, maybe except for the All-Star weekend snub which he fully intends to rectify for the 2013 festivities.