Klay Thompson

Barbosa hopes Klay prioritizes happiness in free-agent decision

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OAKLAND – Klay Thompson has made countless friends during his NBA career and one of them, Leandro Barbosa, has one wish for the longtime Warriors star as he approaches unrestricted free agency.

“He needs to be happy,” Barbosa told NBC Sports Bay Area over the weekend. “That’s the most important thing.”

The Barbosa-Thompson friendship evolved during the two years they were teammates in Golden State, beginning in 2014. They’ve spent personal time together, whether working out in the offseason or visiting theme park visits on the road. Barbosa has been on Thompson’s boat and to his home.

Moreover, Klay refers to Barbosa, a native of Brazil, as “hermano,” Spanish for brother.

That would be, in this instance, “big brother.” Barbosa, 41, now an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings, is almost eight years older than Thompson. Which might be why he is willing to offer counsel for the most important decision of his friend’s professional life.

“He's going to have to be really patient,” Barbosa said. “I hope he comes back to the Warriors. I don't know what's the situation, but it's going to be tough. I know the money (in NBA contracts) is going up, and he's been thinking about the money.

“But I think he needs to be happy. I think that's the most important thing.”

Of Golden State’s veteran core – Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Thompson – Klay is by far the least predictable. The freest spirit. As a bachelor, he can follow his heart. Unlike Curry and Thompson, there are no wife and children to consider.

And, yes, Barbosa is aware of the chatter flares going up last week when it was reported that Thompson had unfollowed the Warriors on social media. It’s a common tactic by professional athletes seeking a contract, and it alarmed no one within Golden State’s orbit.

Curry and Thompson have established themselves as the best offensive backcourt in NBA history and are on the short list of those considered the best overall backcourts of all time.

“At the end of the day, they’re still friends,” Barbosa said. “They’re brothers, like Splash Brothers. We started this together and I was there. I know how it is.”

Insofar as Thompson was drafted by Golden State in 2011, the Warriors are the only NBA family he has known. He was crucial to the franchise's rise from the dungeon to the penthouse. Those four championships matter, and always will.

But don’t think for a moment that Klay won’t be intrigued by a new adventure. From the moment extension talks ended last summer, the expectation has been that he would explore the market.

If dollars are the priority, other teams likely would be willing to go beyond any offer made by Golden State.

Barbosa, ever candid, also acknowledges what became evident in Thompson’s play last season.

“Klay is not the same (as) he used to be,” Barbosa said. “So, it's going be a tough process for him from now on.

Gone are the days when Thompson was among the NBA’s best two-way wings, an All-Defensive team selection whose exceptional shooting was the basis for five consecutive trips to the All-Star game. He still can go for 30 or 40 on a given night, but frequency and efficiency have dipped, as has his defensive versatility.

For those reasons, Thompson realizes he won’t see anything like his expiring contract, a five-year max worth $190 million. League sources indicate he’s seeking an offer of at least three years.

“If he goes to a different team – and I'm just giving this scenario – he's going to have to start all over again,” Barbosa said. “If he stays, this is home for him. This is his house.

“So, I hope he thinks and he kind of understands the business, what's the deal, and go from there.”

The first of Barbosa’s two seasons with the Warriors ended with a victory in the 2015 NBA Finals. The second season ended with a league-record 73 wins but a stunning loss in The Finals. After his final NBA season with the Phoenix Suns, who acquired him in the draft in 2003, Barbosa returned to the NBA in 2020 as a “player-mentor” coach for the Warriors.

Coach Steve Kerr, aware of the Barbosa-Thompson relationship, assigned “L.B.” to reunite with Klay, who was rehabilitating in the wake of surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee.

Their friendship endures. Though Thompson alone will make the final decision about his basketball future, count his hermano among those whose voice he respects.

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