Warriors Move Klay Thompson To Bench

After making 727 consecutive starts, Klay Thompson came off the bench for the Warriors on Thursday for the first time since 2012 in the team’s final game before the All-Star break. Thompson had his best night of the year, scoring a season-high 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting in 28 minutes of action in a 140-137 win over the Jazz in Utah.

As Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area and Anthony Slater of The Athletic write, the move to the second unit wasn’t viewed as a punishment for Thompson, who has been benched in some clutch-time moments as of late and made some costly mistakes on defense on Wednesday.

Head coach Steve Kerr explained that he decided to insert Brandin Podziemski into the starting five in Thompson’s place because lineups that feature the rookie alongside Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, and Jonathan Kuminga have been so effective — they’ve outscored opponents by 57 points in 107 minutes, good for a +26.0 net rating. Additionally, using Thompson as a sixth man gives Golden State “a lot of firepower” off the bench, Kerr added.

“He wasn’t thrilled about it,” Kerr said of informing Thompson of the decision before Thursday’s game. “I didn’t expect him to be thrilled about it.”

However, Thompson – whose overall production and shooting efficiency have dipped well below his career rates this season – said he ultimately decided to “embrace” the move before the opening tip.

“You can do two things. You can pout or you can go out there and respond. I thought I did the latter very well tonight,” Thompson said (Twitter video link via NBC Sports Bay Area). “… I realize I’m going to play a ton of minutes, so you’ve just gotta let the ego go when you think of coming off the bench and all that. I thought about Manu Ginobili, that guy has four rings and a gold medal, and he came off the bench his whole career. And I don’t think anyone looks down on his Hall of Fame candidacy. He’s one of the greats.

“… The moment you worry about what people say or what headlines will be written about being benched or the streak being broken, is when you go out there and you don’t play with that love, that compassion for your teammates, and that freedom that has gotten me to this point. So I realized that I didn’t want to go to All-Star break on a sour note, and I had my best game of the season. Hopefully (can) build off it.”

As Slater notes, Kerr said after the game that having Thompson come off the bench isn’t necessarily “permanent.” However, he wants to at least take a longer look at it, so the plan is to keep Podziemski in the starting lineup and Thompson in that sixth man role when the Warriors resume play after the All-Star break next Thursday.

Thompson has averaged 17.3 points per game on .421/.373/.918 shooting in 50 contests (30.6 MPG) this season. The Warriors have a -1.9 net rating during his minutes this season, compared to a +5.5 mark when he’s not on the court, but the team was a +7 with the veteran sharpshooter on the floor in Thursday’s three-point victory.

Thompson remains extension-eligible and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer if he doesn’t re-up with Golden State on or before June 30.

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