Klay Thompson justified for harsh callout of bandwagon Warriors fans

SAN FRANCISCO – Klay Thompson strolled to the podium Tuesday as if it were the defendant’s table in a courtroom. He took questions for about nine minutes, answering mostly in a monotone, with minimal eye contact. This was, even for Klay, 20 degrees south of chill.

With one notable exception.

Klay’s emotion flashed during a 28-second segment when asked for his thoughts on Nemanja Bjelica, a first-year Warrior whose uneven season has made him a target for dissatisfied fractions of the fan base.

“Nobody’s appreciated by the fans,” Thompson said. “Fans are so…fans, man. The real fans know what’s up. I’m talking about the fans prior to winning championships. The fans who sat through many years of not winning.

“But these new fans who come around and expect greatness and they weren’t anywhere to be found prior. They can get away. We can forget those folks. They don’t deserve to rep the Warriors.”

Well now, it’s apparent that this runs deeper than Bjelica.

Though he eventually offered a positive assessment of Beli, the salt was out of Klay’s shaker. He was abundantly clear in expressing his displeasure with fans best fickle and lacking perspective. He wants no part of them.

If any portion of his low-key tirade was directed toward fans sprinting to social media to urge his benching, Thompson’s ire is entirely justifiable. It’s an insult to his career.

His shot has been streaky, with more games in which he shot under 40 percent (nine) than over 50 percent (six). His defense has had good and bad moments. This is to be expected of someone coming off two major injuries, both of which required surgery, resulting in 31 months of basketball inactivity.

When I asked Klay if there were certain parts of his game he was pleased with and certain parts not to his standard, his response was that of a man delighted to be on the court.

“I’m honestly pleased with everything I’m doing,” he said. “I’ve made shots, missed shots. Just the fact that I’m doing it is awesome to me. What I’m doing is somewhat unprecedented. Just to be out here playing, that’s all I really care about.”

Thompson is averaging 19.3 points and 29.2 minutes per game, shooting 41.8 percent overall, 37.1 percent from distance – slightly lower than Stephen Curry and slightly higher than Poole –and 91.1 percent from the line. Klay’s assist-to-turnover ratio is 2.1-1.

The numbers are not terrible, and the streakiness is to be expected.

But Klay has, through sheer will and masterful shooting, led the Warriors to victories in countless games, even in the playoffs. In his last game, on Saturday, he scored 36 points and anchored a crucial win over the Jazz.

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The thought of benching Klay for JP never crossed the mind of coach Steve Kerr. It wasn’t going to happen. Moving Thompson to the Sixth Man role after a few games of poor shooting – dismissing nearly a decade of unprecedented team and individual success – would have been an overreaction of epic proportions.

Though Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala were sidelined by injuries and Andrew Wiggins’ production and efficiency took a steep tumble, some pointed to Thompson and were ready to offer his longtime role to Poole.

Never mind the deleterious effect that would have had on the entire rotation. Thompson at his best plays alongside playmakers. If Golden State’s three best playmakers – Stephen Curry, Green and Poole – are in the starting lineup, who’s the primary ball-handler to partner with Klay?

With the team mired in mediocrity and Poole taking flight toward stardom, there was a certain restlessness within the fan base. That’s to be expected. Though Klay never directly mentioned those ready to alter his status, such chatter has a way of being heard.

For it to target Klay, a central figure during the golden years that elevated the franchise to heights usually confined to dreams, is misguided. Real fans know what’s up.

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