Klay speaks! And more (Kerr/Poole); mega-recap of Warriors Practice II in Denver
[Free article + transcripts of interviews]
DENVER, CO — The Golden State Warriors held their practice today about five miles south of downtown, at the University of Denver, on the Pioneers’ practice court next to their digs, Magness Arena, home to their very successful ice hockey team.
I’m not quite sure about the history, but it comes as no surprise to me when NBA teams visit opposing cities and practice at the University of X, where X is simply the name of the city they’re in. I can remember as far back as 2004, when Team USA practiced at USF in San Francisco. At the time I was told of the above formula. Seems to work just fine. There’s probably a reason for this, akin to the NBA having a pregame love affair with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (seriously, Google that; it’s fascinating).
After being told there would be an attempt to have Klay Thompson talk to us today, the first person we saw was Steve Kerr meeting us halfway in the hallway that separates the foyer and the gym. There wasn’t blaring music going on in the gym a stone’s throw away, to my surprise, and I knew the audio would be better than usual. But I hadn’t queued up my YouTube livestream properly, so I went live on the simpler Instagram platform:
Kerr said there’s no way Draymond Green plays tomorrow at the Utah Jazz, even though the new NBA protocols, agreed upon with the NBPA, came out today with the CDC’s guidelines of five days and, technically, Green was placed in protocols on 12/26 and the game tomorrow will be 1/1.
I finally got the opportunity to ask Kerr about the budding relationship between Andre Iguodala and Jordan Poole, but I guess he hasn’t noticed anything (more on this in a future paywalled article):
The beginning of Kerr’s Q&A has a lot of praise for the Utah Jazz:
Please scroll down to the bottom to see the transcript.
After Kerr, we finally approached the gym and I did a little scan, finding Thompson and Poole shooting with each other in the middle court and Andrew Wiggins and Gary Payton II together on the far court, with Stephen Curry working with Bruce “Q” Fraser adjacent to them.
So I went live with Klay and JP. When they got the near corner three spot, there was a funny moment where Klay pirouetted for a spin and launched the 22-footer with his left hand. He then turned to Warriors PR man and said, “Can you believe he actually shot this in a game?” (or something to that effect, I’m paraphrasing) — but I can’t quite remember when that was, and Google didn’t yield anything about a Poole lefty three, so if you can help me out, let me know in the Comments below. Btw, Klay’s lefty corner attempt hit rim but was way off. There were a few other jokes by Klay, but I haven’t had the time to rewatch the whole video:
Payton was his usual boisterous self in the shootout with Wiggins, yelling occasionally as he missed a crucial shot or something. You will never go bored playing GP2 in a shooting contest. I noticed they tried some 35-foot shots. I only saw Wiggs make one after the previous one clanked:
Steph did his usual routine:
And then I noticed Klay stayed where he was sitting and had begun answering questions from The Athletic’s Anthony Slater and the SF Chronicle’s Connor Letourneau (NOTE: the SJ Mercury’s Evan Webeck was quarantined in Toronto ever since the morning after the Warriors played the Raptors awhile back, and was not on this road trip; he has returned to the Bay as of this writing.)
Even the Warriors TV staff was surprised by this and so we all scrambled to get our mics in front of Thompson.
I managed to go live on Instagram again and caught him saying the Warriors are “destined for greatness” when everyone is finally healthy:
I even popped in a question about how the interaction with head trainer Rick Celebrini is going, as Kerr has on numerous occasions said Klay’s return is entirely the decision of Celebrini. Klay said Rick has had to “wrangle” him in from his competitive side, which obviously wants him to come back sooner than later:
Again, scroll down if you want to read the transcript.
I fired up the YouTube livestream near the end of that interview and it bled into Iguodala and Curry’s workouts, as well as Kris Weems walking by, which gave me the opportunity to tell him the anecdote where, at shootaround in Indianapolis awhile back, Dennis Scott’s NBA TV (not TNT as I actually told Weems) co-worker swore Weems was Gary Payton, Sr. Looks like word got around that day and, according to Weems, GP2 gave him a hard time for causing confusion.
Practice ended quietly although there were a few other funny moments which I think I might have to save for a paywalled article because of the insider-y nature of them.
Then we got JP for the last interview and he described his quarantine in the hotel room in Boston, and he’s not concerned about his conditioning. He gave a lot of his usual brief answers but we all did well to ask follow-up questions for him to expound on, although he said he would not divulge anything about Klay’s performance in scrimmage:
I asked about the dynamic with Iguodala and got some pretty good insights, including how Andre views Poole as “his rook”, even though JP is already in his third NBA season. As I mentioned in the last practice recap, I see them together a lot!
Again, you can scroll all the way down to see the transcript.
[The following paragraph is supposed to be strikethrough’ed but I see it has only underlined it, oh well:] I’ve been told the Warriors won’t fly to Salt Lake City until tomorrow morning and, if that’s true, then there’s definitely no morning shootaround tomorrow at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
UPDATE: Chris Chiozza just posted an IG Story from Salt Lake, so the team is definitely there already.
Anyways, Happy New Year to those of you who want to hear that (S/O Amondawa and Piraha tribes of the Amazon, the Hopi Indians, and so forth! ✊)
NOTES & QUOTES: KERR
Utah: “…great two-way team…more continuity than anybody in the league…if they keep you in the halfcourt and you’re trying to score with Gobert in the paint, you’re in trouble…”
Utah elite? “I’m just flattered that we’re being considered a threat to Utah and Phoenix…overlooked by a lot of people just because they haven’t broken through. Phoenix was overlooked last year. A lot of people didn’t buy Phoenix’s success and they went to the Finals…they execute like crazy…”
Injuries, Draymond? “…Draymond won’t be — I don’t think so…he hasn’t cleared protocols yet.”
Klay looked: “light practice after scrimmaging yesterday. He’s excited…”
January 3 comeback? “When Rick tells me he’s gonna play then he’s gonna play.”
Iguodala and Poole chemistry? “…Andre…intelligence…acumen…really good mix of knowledge of the game/league and a sarcastic wit that allows him to get his message across…”
Andre x JP? “No (haven’t seen anything in particular between them).”
KLAY NOTES & QUOTES:
Scrimmaging with Steph: “Man, it was really really special. My shot was short, my breath was short, but after the first five minutes the jitters were gone and just playing basketball again…”
How close are you? “I feel very close. I forward to playing soon. I really do.”
Do you have a date in mind? “It’s up to Mr. Celebrini. He’s gonna let me know the day before and go from there because I don’t wanna have to sit around anxious and wait for a target date, but it should be relatively soon and he’ll let me know a couple days before, probably.”
Shot feels good? “Ah, it feels great, always feels great. The shot, I was never worried about. The hardest part when you come back from a long layoff is the timing, the rhythm of the game and the conditioning aspect…it’s gonna be on a minutes restriction, that’s gonna build…hopefully peak towards when it’s winning time, which is obviously all the time but for when it really, really matters…”
Defensively? “Man, I feel really good…there’s times throughout the lengthy process that you might doubt yourself if you’ll ever be the same type of player…take a few games, maybe a few weeks to be an All-Star again.”
Minutes restriction at 18 then a slow build up? “Somewhere around there. We got such a great, deep team too that I don’t need to come back and shoulder a huge load…I can ease into things which I’m very grateful for.”
Watching games thinking how it would be with him: “…I get very excited thinking about it. Just to be part of a team again, it’s a real blessing and I think we’re gonna be destined for greatness when we got a full squad. We don’t even have our big man back yet and Draymond’s in protocols but when we’re fully together it’s gonna be special.”
Kerr culture, winning pedigree: “Steve is a great leader and he has implemented a great offense that plays to all our strengths. Give credit to the guys who have been here, the guys who might’ve been cast away from other franchises. Guys like GP and Otto, Nemanja who have resurged their whole careers and are playing huge roles for us. And then guys like Andrew being a potential All-Star. I think he should be, especially with the way we’re playing this year. Without him, we would not be where we’re at. Jordan Poole, I mean, the improvements he’s made in his game. He should be up for Most Improved. And then Juan. I mean, I could go down the list. We’ve got ten or eleven, twelve, thirteen contributors nightly. You look at Q. I trained with Q in Santa Cruz and we sparred a lot together and for him to come in and make an impact on Christmas Day is a testament to not only our front office finding the talent, but the guys who are ready when it’s called upon them to do their thing.“
Breakthrough moment in scrimmage? “Uh, honestly, last night, just being out there and being able to go up and down and play with the first unit was a big moment for me…I guess that was a silver lining in the NBA canceling the game, as I was able to play with my guys and that was really a lot of fun.”
Conversations with Celebrini: “We go back and forth. I tell him how I feel. I tell what I want to improve at, but he also needs to wrangle me in because I’m very competitive and I think I’m ready right away. But he’s been doing this a lot longer than I have, so I trust Rick’s judgment. We’ve been working tirelessly for the last year and it’s all gonna pay off here soon.”
Set on comeback at home? “Yeah, I wanna play in front of our fans. They deserve this. First time in two years. They deserve to see me in the home unis.”
Klay gets up to leave after that: “Great sound bites!” 😂
POOLE NOTES & QUOTES:
Quarantine since Boston: “It was cool. I had a lot of rest. I had a lot of alone time, down time, but it wasn’t anything, like, too crazy.”
Stuck in a hotel the whole time? “We couldn’t do nothing.”
Conditioning suffer? “…You don’t do anything for a week and some days it’s hard to stay in tip-top shape, but the equipment staff, the training staff, they left me some stuff to keep me (in shape).”
Exercise bike? “(Jokes that they left one bike.) Nah, they left a jump rope…resistance bands, a couple slide boards. (There’s) only so much you can do in a hotel room.”
How’s your shot affected? “If anything, it’s probably just the conditioning part. We shoot so many shots all the time and have so many reps. Essentially you just — no, I feel fine (laughs).”
Back to where you want to be, conditioning-wise? “Yeah. Coming into the season, I try to have my fitness level at a pretty high rate. It’s really hard to get out of shape within a week and then I came back and, even with the postponed game yesterday, it did us a little bit of justice being in the higher altitude. So my last four days back have been pretty good, conditioning terms. I already feel back to how I was before I left.”
How was the scrimmage with Klay yesterday? “It was good.” (Typical Poole short answer!)
First time you played with Klay? “Uhh, the second, I think. Third. Something like that.”
How did Klay play? “He looked good. Y’all not getting any information out of me. He looked good. Come back ready to play, he gonna be ready. Let me beat you all to it.”
Wiseman: “He has a really good group of vets and older guys around him. So we’re in a really good situation. We’re also winning games and we’re one of the best teams in the league right now, so it’s not like we’re rushing him back. He has a little bit of a cushion around him, just because of the situation and all the pieces that are in place here. So, minor setback but we have no doubt that as soon as he comes back, he’ll be ready.”
Relationship with Andre: “Yeah, we got a good one. We got a good relationship.”
Expound? “He a good dude. I like talking to him. I ask a lot of questions and he gives me a lot of answers. Idk, it’s a good relationship. Some people you know, you gravitate towards and I had a really, really small encounter with him my rookie year before he ended up doing the whole Memphis-Miami situation. Just be around him, he’s definitely taken me under his wing. He thinks I’m his rookie, still. Idk why he thinks I’m his rook. Maybe just because it’s the first year of us being together, but we got a really good relationship and we talk all the time, so kinda like a big-brother-little-brother situation.”
Able to watch the games while in quarantine? “Yeah.”
How was that experience? “It was definitely new. It was my first time I’ve ever sit out consecutive games. Definitely I’ve never been out six games before and it was really weird watching it on TV. I had to turn the sound off. It was cool. It was film, essentially. Right? I’m watching it live. I can find ways to get better every single time, but it was definitely different not being out there, seeing that I can’t help the team in certain ways, but I’m back.”