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#KlayDay mega-recap: Klay’s return among DubNation
[free article, raffle/giveaway begins soon!]
SAN FRANCISCO, CA — This is my mega-recap of #KlayDay, where I attended as a fan and had the honor of sitting next to Klay Thompson’s trainer, Charlie Torres, from the second deck. More on that later, below.
First off, my apologies for the delay of the launch of Klay’s Celebration Giveaway/Raffle. I underestimated the process of selecting a daily winner. There has also been a family emergency, but those seem to always come up and I loathe making the same excuse every time. My upcoming plans are to add an article showing my inventory of prizes, run the “randomizer” program asap (Tuesday), select three winners because we were supposed to have had one per day and three total by now, and get them all on a Zoom call so I can announce who was selected first, second and third — maybe even do that from Thrive City, for fun. And there will be more winners daily after that, until I run out of prizes (there’s quite a few).
Back to #KlayDay. Please note, you can get the gist of my experience simply by watching all the videos in our Klay Day playlist, although they were not necessarily uploaded in complete chronological order. I got there in time for pregame workouts (1.5 hours before tipoff) and decided the Terry A. Francois Blvd entrance would be a smaller line than the more obvious entrance from Thrive City and the Warriors Shop. I texted a fan who once played in Dream League and he told me the line from Thrive City was better. Oops, I was already in line. So, I don’t know which one was actually shorter but I can tell you the line from this entrance by the Bay where Klay docks his boat went pretty smoothly. There was even an assistant at the door to help out people who had trouble accessing their online tickets, which can create a logjam.
Upon entrance, I later found out that you might be able to see the pregame workouts from the top of the lower bowl if you enter through the United Club level, the first tier before taking the escalators further to the top deck. For sure at halftime, that’s the better place to go for restrooms. So, a couple tips I learned on the fly.
I should also say that it’s quite steep up on the second deck. When you pass people to get to your seat in the middle, it feels like you’re walking on a ledge. We’re all better off helping each other out, and perhaps the ushers could be better served to warn fans of this. Later that night, an elderly woman who had told Torres she’s had two knee surgeries actually fell into the row below us. It was scary, like that “trust” exercise you try at corporate team-bonding events, where your co-worker has to catch you. When she fell into the next row, it looked like that. Luckily everyone was super-helpful in pulling her up and making sure she didn’t fall again.
So if you have any problems with claustrophobia or fear of heights, please beware. On the other hand the seats are comfortable and each one has a cup holder attached to the seat in the row in front of you. Chase Center is still the best arena on the planet in nearly every conceivable detail.
Okay, so once I got in, I saw Andre Iguodala wearing Klay’s jersey and then saw some tweets where every Golden State Warriors player wore some kind of jersey of his during their pregame workouts. After Andre, when Thompson finally showed up, there were cheers for him, which was to be expected. Klay usually starts his workout with a few 15-foot baseline jumpers and as he made each one, there were cheers. It reminded me of when Jeremy Lin would get applause from Oracle Arena every time he touched the ball back during his rookie year.
Meanwhile, Stephen Curry was hot from distance, making his requisite five shots in a relatively short amount of time. I was too focused on Klay to get all of Curry’s logo shots on video. Did this portend a hot streak in the game? I’m still not sold on that, but then again I did see him go a seemingly career-worst 5-for-27 (based only on my memory) from the logo and then he did struggle in the game against the Denver Nuggets, finishing just 6/16 on FG, 5/14 on threes. On this night, Steph would go on to score 14 points in Q1 on 4/5 from three.
Layup lines after the pregame tunnel run and taking the court was fun, too. Steph, as usual, was first after the “Just us!” cheer he always does leaving the huddle, but Klay was close behind. Brothers! And, of course, the cheers were loud again. Even when Thompson hit a measly layup, there were cheers. But as the pregame warmups wore on, there were less of them. The novelty wore off a bit, until obviously the intros for the starters.
As someone who likes to carefully dissect the nuances of every ritual the Dubs have, I’m particularly fond of Steph’s habits during the intros. Never one to bask in the spotlight, as the last one off the bench when hype man Franco Finn rattles off the names of the starters, Curry always trails the second-to-last guy announced, thereby already in the squad scrum by the time Finn yells, “In his 13th year out of Davidson…”
But tonight, Klay would be announced last. So to break the time-honored tradition of saying Curry’s name last, to me that was super-special. And it could only be done by something as unique as #KlayDay. To hear Kevon Looney’s name called, see Steph trail right behind him, then hear Curry’s name called, with still another name to go? Wow! I loved that.
When his name was finally called, that’s when I heard Chase Center at its loudest ever. It still can’t beat the unique, unduplicated sound structure of Oracle Arena, but that building is like the Wilt Chamberlain 100-point record. Nothing will ever be like Oracle and it deserves to never be compared to again.
And then the class act by Draymond Green to foul and sub himself out due to a calf injury, that made the moment even more special. As you already know, the crowd went crazy when Klay scored the first bucket:
In this game, the peripheral views were aplenty, as Klay not only had a bevy of shots whereby the crowd was thrilled by the anticipation of each one, but he also got cheers when Jordan Poole finally took him out after more than four minutes of continual play. Then there was an argument with the ref after what seemed like a clean block, a couple stints on the exercise bike to keep the blood pumping and the muscles warm, and the “We want Klay!” chants at the end even though DubNation knew full well that was preposterous with the game decided and still nearly three minutes before the final buzzer.
As far as the game itself, who cares? Just kidding. Charlie and I remarked on a few things such as Rajon Rondo getting dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers to make room for Stanley Johnson (apparently, the Los Angeles Lakers were in dire need of a wing).
At one point, the Cavs had their “Tall Three” lineup of three seven-footers: Lauri Markkanen, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. Klay was on Mobley at one point and wouldn’t allow Mobley get position, a reminder of Thompson’s tree trunk strength prowess on defense, even in the post.
People also forget that not too long ago at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse (it’s hard not to refer to it as “The Q”) in Cleveland, the Warriors were down 13 heading into the fourth against the Cavs and that Tall Three was giving our squad problems. But Steph went nuclear with 20 points in the fourth and this night, pretty handily beating the Cavs a second time, seemed to have established our dominance of this young up-and-coming team.
Still, even in the waning moments Torres and I could see “Kerr System” on full display as a series of DHOs (dribble handoffs), cutting, passing and overall movement deep into the shot clock impressed us. Charlie is currently the head coach at a prep school in LA and even though that particular sequence didn’t lead to a Warriors bucket, we both said, “These guys are so good,” as the GSW bench players executed what we would deem as a read-and-react pipe dream for our high school or men’s recreational players that we’ve coached.
As the final buzzer sounded, I lost track of where Klay went and Charlie said he walked to the Cavs’ bench and got a hug from long-time friend Kevin Love. Later, Steph plucked his son Canon from where the Curry family sits. Klay graciously put his hands together 🙏 and thanked the fans at Chase on the way out of the tunnel, and that’s where my postgame interview video starts, as the reporters also cheered Thompson on his way to the locker room and, eventually being presented the game ball by Canon.
Then I went live with Charlie as he looked for a particular piece of Klay apparel from one of the vendors, which didn’t have the “Origins” version of the Thompson No. 11 “shirsey”. Ironically just across the way through theatre glass window, we could see the outdoor Warriors Shop, where I’m sure they carried that item. Torres said he doesn’t like to shop online.
Charlie was on his way to meet with Klay’s brother Mychel Thompson to get a family pass to join up with them, so I bode farewell and headed outside where Thrive City was, well, thriving. The NBC Sports Bay Area postgame show with Bonta Hill and Festus Ezeli was on and fans were gathered behind it, screaming at the chance to be on TV in the background. I grabbed a bite to eat at Dumpling Time after ending the livestream and managed to get a hold of Ezeli after he was done and he came by to say hello. He’s headed back to LA to work on a few things but will be back again for more NBSCBA gigs; the Warriors are headed to Memphis, Milwaukee, Chicago and Minneapolis. I’ll skip the first three and plan to attend from the underrated Target Center at the end of the trip. I’ll also get the chance to link up with Charlie again for the LA Clippers game on the road in mid-February, but we’ll see how that goes.
I’ll never forget #KlayDay, especially as I spent it with the fans and Klay’s trainer. Having just witnessed the Dirk Nowitzki jersey retirement ceremony last week in Dallas — I promise you I’m working on an article on that one especially because Dallas is a great place to watch the Warriors — I can tell you that the love felt in the arena was similar to tonight, and yet Klay is still an active player. This game and its fans are truly special.
I still have some “insider” tidbits from Charlie to report, so I’ll just stick those in the next article I write that is paywalled.
Thanks for your patience on that, as well as with the ongoing Klay Celebration Raffle/Giveaway. Icymi, I suspect the top prize that one of our paid subscribers will nab is the 10-year anniversary book by ANTA, also explained here:
Below are notes I took from the gargantuan Steve Kerr media availability from the day before at practice, leading up to #KlayDay. There’s an update on James Wiseman in there, as I’ve grown accustomed during the livestreams to hearing questions about Wise whenever we talk about Klay — seems to go hand-in-hand:
Klay: “…build up his endurance…needed the reps, need the rhythm, build up the stamina…he’s been scrimmaging almost daily…really come a long way with his conditioning…”
Klay playing? “I’m just the coach of the team. It’s up to Klay and Rick…”
Jokes with Kerith on when
Normal as possible for Klay? “We’ve known for a long time that the night Klay came back was gonna be one of the most emotional games…reading the script here (jokes)…something that the whole team has looked forward to, we love Klay so much…nobody can know what he’s been through personally…seen his frustration…all we can do is support him and I know that’s how our fans feel…you can imagine how Klay’s gonna feel…”
Still caution for Klay? “…help you read the tea leaves, I guess it’s not my announcement or decision to make so just keep your phone handy…”
Kerith says tea leaves have been read
Wiseman: “took part in most of practice…did not scrimmage…trending toward that direction…he was bouncing around practice today going through our defensive drills…looked like a kid on Christmas morning…hopeful that on the road trip some time next week he’ll ramp up the contact…scrimmage on practice days, 3-on-3 with the young guys, really hard 1-on-1 workout with our bigs, all of that needs to happen…”
Wiseman will go on the trip? “Yes.”
What Klay night will be like for you: “…if you’re around long enough…probably played in a thousand games, coached in 500, there’s a few games you just always remember…just because of who Klay is and how much he has meant to the franchise, to the Bay Area…everybody’s favorite guy and we’ve all seen him suffer for two years…”
Anything comparable in your career? “When Michael Jordan came back from his two-year absence, our game in Indianapolis in ‘95…two-year absence for a totally different reason than Klay…but that night stands out…driving to the airport to go to Indianapolis, I was driving with my teammate Jud Beuchler…what’s Phil Jackson gonna do, do you bring him off the bench?…as a general rule when you have your own statue…you’re in the starting lineup (Jud said)…I’ve had a few people say what are you gonna do with Klay Thompson…so Klay’s gonna start…less responsibility, fewer minutes and we’ll try to work him in more and more minutes as he’s getting more and more comfortable…”
How was that game different? “Similar to the game in New York with Steph. There’s clearly a buzz in the air. The different is this is not the outcome of the game that is so anticipated, it’s the moment itself, it’s the occasion, it’s what’s being celebrated. In New York what was being celebrated was Steph’s entire career…(Indianapolis MJ return)…moment will be about a guy’s perseverance…and everybody’s love for him.”
Team on Klay? “They couldn’t be more excited…natural point in the season where the games become more difficult. These are the dog days before the All-Star Break…”
Draymond posted (on IG?) he couldn’t sleep, most hyped practice, how hard to sleep before that night? “We had a scrimmage in Denver…crucial milestone, felt like an important emotional event to see the group together again…today was a brief practice…great on a lot of levels to get up and down the floor…see Klay out there…feel Wiseman’s presence, not in the scrimmage…jolt of energy coming our way.”
Klay’s non-court presence: “There’s a sense of confidence…reinforcements coming in…everyone loves being around Klay…the locker room is one of the best things about being a professional athlete…he helps create a great vibe every day.”
Klay specifically: “it’s impossible to describe…doesn’t have to try.”
Rein in Klay, patience? “It’ll take a little time for Klay to settle in and for our team to settle in. There’s a lot going on…our team has to get used to new rotations and new roles…but that’s the point of the season. We’ve got forty-plus games left so we’ve got time…”
11 of 16 guys haven’t played with Klay, Klay hasn’t been on the court for so long, new guys connecting? “It can only go so far in the training room and the locker room…just gonna take reps. The good thing is anyone on Earth can play with Klay…he would fit with any of the thirty teams in the league…”
Easy guy to get to know for new guys? “Klay can be very quiet. Until you really compete with a guy you don’t know him as well as you’re going to…when you’re in the heat of competition together that’s when you really learn…all part of that process we’re gonna be going through.”
Moody back and forth SCW? “Absolutely. Santa Cruz…important part of our franchise…that’s a resource that we will always plan on…”
Kuminga too? “…mix in a 35-minute night…in Santa Cruz…”
Klay: “just judging from scrimmages he looks great. He’s Klay Thompson, he’s a ball of famer…there’s no predicting that, he just needs reps…”
Wiseman and possible acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins: “I would argue that we do have another center on the roster and that’s Kevon Looney…any personnel questions you can ask Bob Myers.”
Jokes that he needs to discuss with Klay and Rick (Celebrini), Kerith reveals that the post announcing Klay’s return has already been made: “Thank you for enduring that ridiculous charade with me.”