THE OTHER “SPLASH BROTHER” PART I

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Updated: December 26, 2015

 

THE OTHER  “SPLASH BROTHER”

 By:- Art George- Special to BASN

kLAY 1 20-

Stephen Curry is such a tsunami of scoring and popularity in the National Basketball Association and world at large that sometimes the “other” Splash Brother, Klay Thompson, is lost in the spray.  Curry plays with personality, and is a media and marketing darling; Thompson just goes to work. Curry is cute, Thompson a more silent threat. Playing beside Steph Curry, big contributions can go fatally undetected.

For the past two consecutive seasons, Thompson has been the NBA’s second-best three point scorer. The only player above him is Steph Curry.  Does second-best count in sports?  For Klay Thompson and the Warriors, the answer has to be yes. Together, for three consecutive seasons, they have set and then broken NBA records for combined three-pointers.  They have won an NBA championship. Thompson’s definition of “Splash Brothers” is pure hoop: the splash is to “make it rain, like to hear the net go swoosh — that beautiful sound.“ Swish splash.

When night after night Curry gets the spotlight as point guard and three point master, Thompson is right there with him, sometimes even surpassing Curry’s totals, with big double digits.  As in a 128-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on December 16, Thompson hit for 43 when Curry scored “only” 25.  Or against the Indiana Pacers on December 6, Thompson had 39 points to Curry’s 29 for a 131-123 win. On December 18, when the Warriors avenged their streak-breaking loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Thompson got 27 to Curry’s 26.

In the 103-85 win over the Utah Jazz on December 23, Thompson was high scorer with 20 when Curry had a rare night of erratic shooting and 16 points.  Other nights, like against Toronto on December 5, final score 112-109, Curry had 44 points, backed up by Thompson’s 26; all the points were needed for the close win.

KEEPING KLAY

That the Warriors even committed to keeping Thompson with the team is so fresh that the ink on the deal is still drying. As recently as the summer of 2014 (remember, that’s only just more than a year ago) and just before the championship season, the Warriors agonized over trade overtures from the Minnesota Timberwolves who sought Thompson, as a measure of his worth, with the temptation of proven shooter and All Star Kevin Love in Love’s last year before free agency.  Could Love provide the extra spark the Warriors needed to ascend the championship ladder, or would Thompson be sufficient?  What vision did the T-Wolves have to rebuild their franchise around Thompson?  Where should money go, what would it bring?

The Warriors pondered whether to sign Thompson for the league maximum as his agents sought, trade him, or risk losing him to restricted free agency.  For Thompson, he had to consider whether to sign a long-term deal with the Warriors, for economic security and a chance for a championship with this squad, or wait for the larger sums that could come to him in free agency when a new multi-billion-dollar television contract further enriches the NBA and its players in 2017. How much did the Warriors value him? What would the Warriors pay to keep him?  Should he stay at any price or go?

Curry, forward Andre Igoudala, and new coach Steve Kerr weighed in hard for Klay. Igoudala had joined the Warriors as a free agent after being impressed playing as a Denver Nugget against Thompson in the previous season’s playoffs.  Klay wanted to stay. The Warriors stayed with him too, making the financial commitment, expressing faith in his future and his fit with other players the Warriors had assembled. Thompson’s ability to play defense helps to free up Curry as the high-scoring face of the franchise. A backcourt partner who didn’t live up to Thompson’s standards defensively was seen as a major threat to this crucial component.  Kevin Love is sometimes perceived to be in love with Kevin Love, interested in scoring but less so in defending.

So in October 2014, just more than a year ago, Thompson signed a four-year contract extension with the Warriors worth almost $70 million.  After having won 51 games under former head coach Mark Jackson and two straight playoff appearances, Warriors ownership and management decided to keep their core intact rather than import a flashy trade or free-agent.  They bet correctly, and earned a ring.  Love ultimately went to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a package for No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins, and remains there seeking a title with LeBron James.   Wiggins and the T-Wolves are third in their division with a losing record.

The day after signing his contract extension, Thompson scored a then career-high 41 points in the Warriors’ 127-104 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.  In that 2014-2015 season, what would become the championship year, Thompson broke out.  He averaged a career-high 21.6 points-per-game for the season, and was named an NBA All-Star for the first time.  On January 23, 2015 against the Sacramento Kings, he had a career high of 52 with perfect shooting of 13 of 13 from the field and 9 of 9 from three-point land, making two NBA records, for most points (37) scored in a quarter and most three-pointers in a single quarter.   Wilt Chamberlain had previously held the franchise record for points in a quarter, with 31 in a game in 1962.

A DUO FOR THREESKlay and Kobe (290x205)

Thompson long had been showing his potential.  Thompson was the Warriors first round pick, 11th overall, in the 2011 draft; Curry was already aboard since being the seventh overall pick by the Warriors in 2009.

As a rookie, Thompson was fifteenth in the NBA for three-point scoring. A year later in the 2012-13 season, Thompson was third in the league for treys. Curry broke the NBA record for 3-pointers made in a single season with 272, and with Thompson’s 211, one hundred more than his previous season, they combined for 483 treys as the most ever by an NBA duo.

In 2013-14, Curry and Thompson again were the league leaders for treys, Curry with 261 and Thompson with 223, setting a new combined record of 484. In 2014-2015, Curry again had a record-breaking year, finishing the regular season with 286.  Thompson had 239, again second in the league. For the third time, they again set a new record for three-pointers by two teammates of 525, surpassing their previous record by 41.

Together, they were the “Splash Brothers,” from the pair’s ability to “splash” the net with the ball, particularly on three-point shots. The term was created in 2012 by Brian Witt, a writer for the Warriors website. On December 21 against the Charlotte Bobcats, Curry and Thompson had combined for 25 points and seven 3-pointers by halftime, when Witt used the #SplashBrothers  hashtag in an update on the team’s Twitter account.   The moniker echoed the “Bash Brothers” nickname of homerun sluggers Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco who had also played in Oakland with the A’s. The team encouraged Witt to continue marketing the players with that nickname, and Splash Brothers stuck.

Thompson and Curry operate in tandem as Splash Brothers.  Curry makes scoring look easy.  As workmanlike as Thompson is, his own and even Curry’s numbers sometimes accumulate quietly, and by then the damage to opponents is done.  Each does acknowledge how good they and their team are, but they are otherwise humble.

Remarkably, there is not friction between Curry and Thompson, over points, money, playing time, or possession.  “I’ve never heard Steph come to anybody and say, ‘I need this many shots. I need to get the ball,’” Thompson told Jonathan Abrams of Grantland. “That’s not my nature, either. I know I’m going to get shots up if I just play my game and keep moving without the ball. For us, it’s never been about, ‘Oh, he’s the franchise guy,’ or ‘Oh, he gets all the accolades.’ I think we all put our egos aside.

“I know my strengths,” Thompson continued. “I know I’m not as good as Steph with the ball in my hands. I’m better moving off the pick, off the ball, in position to catch and go, instead of standing still with the high ball screen. I know I’m a better post player than Steph, so if I have a mismatch, he’ll recognize it and throw me the ball.”

This outlook has spread throughout the Golden State roster. “Steph don’t care if Klay gets the shot,” forward Draymond Green said. “Klay don’t care if Steph gets the shot. So if you’re on their team, how can you get mad at something like that?

“Who they are does a lot for the team chemistry.  When your two main guys, your two dogs, your two go-getters have attitudes like that, how can anyone else be selfish?”

 END OF PART I

Contact artxgeorge@yahoo.com

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