Steph: Klay absorbed too much outside noise to start season


Klay Thompson fought off every narrative that questioned whether or not he was back to being his dominant self throughout the 2022-23 NBA season.

It didn’t start out that way, however.

Warriors star Steph Curry, his fellow Splash Brother and teammate for the past 12 seasons, addressed those early-season storylines Tuesday when asked about Thompson’s growing leadership role in the locker room.

“I think earlier in the year, he got a little distracted from a lot of the different outside noise, talk and distractions around who he was and who he was trying to be,” Curry said Tuesday after Golden State practiced in Dallas.

“Once he just started playing basketball just enjoying the game, I think … there’s some wisdom built in there in how you’re supposed to approach it no matter what you’ve done in your career.”

Thompson, who made an emotional return to the court last January after missing two straight seasons to injuries, showed flashes of his former All-Star self during the Warriors’ run to the 2022 championship.

His first full campaign since missing back-to-back regular seasons started off sluggish, however. Thompson took a while to look like himself again offensively, which prompted reactions -- and perhaps overreactions -- from basketball pundits about his NBA future.

Charles Barkley was perhaps the loudest critic, stating that Thompson was “not the same guy.”

Thompson silenced all doubters by shooting the lights out from 3-point range in January (43.1 percent) and February (45.4 percent). He now has four games with at least 40 points this season, one more than his last full NBA season in 2018-19.

Thompson’s ability to rebound from criticism and find his shining star once again has contributed to his growing leadership role in San Francisco, one that is becoming more and more vocal as the Warriors usher in a new era of youngsters.

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“I know they respect Klay,” Curry said of his young Warriors teammates. “They respect everything he has done in his career, what he puts into the game and what he’s fought back from -- his injuries. And just trying to make it about basketball.

“He has connected with the young guys, [Jordan Poole] especially. Like every vet should, building them up, giving them encouragement. But also showing them all the work you put into it. All that stuff matters.”

No player is immune to the targets of critics, even those with such a profound résumé as Thompson. As young Warriors such as Poole endure bumps on their career paths, they have Thompson, just a few lockers down, to lean on.

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