Klay Thompson making early impact in NBA

NBA PLAYERS are no different than the vast majority of professional athletes in that most have a short shelf life. Few enjoy long careers; even fewer become all-stars. Klay Thompson has played less than half a season in the NBA, but his coach is already predicting the former Washington State standout will enjoy a lengthy career as an NBA all-star.

"If he's a solid pro for 12 years, that's a heck of a career," Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson said earlier this week. "But he's better than that."

Klay Thompson, drafted 11th overall in the first round last June after passing up his senior season at WSU, has been a key reserve for the Warriors. The 6-foot-7 wing ranks fifth in the NBA with 46.9 percent shooting on 3-pointers. He averages 7.7 points, 1.3 assists and 17.2 minutes per game.

Told of Jackson's comments Thursday afternoon, Thompson said, "It's pretty humbling. It means a lot coming from someone like Coach Jackson.

"He's been around the game so long (17 years as an NBA point guard). He was such a good player. I'm just happy he believes in me, because that allows me to believe in myself and know that if I keep working, I can become an all-star, I guess, one day."

Thompson was hoping to take part in the NBA All-Star Game weekend activities next week, but he was not one of the 10 rookies selected to play with or against 10 second-year players in the Rising Stars Challenge. That game will be held next Friday in Orlando, two days prior to the All-Star Game.

"I was disappointed I wasn't in that game," Thompson said in a telephone interview from Oakland. "I really wanted to be in it. I thought I played well enough of late to be in it. I'm just gonna use it as a chip on my shoulder and just keep working. I'm not trying to be cocky or anything, but I just think I'm one of the better nine rookies.

"But I don't control that part of basketball. I'll just let that motivate me and keep working and make them one day (realize) they made a mistake."

Thompson grew up hanging around Staples Center and the Los Angeles Lakers, since father Mychal played for the Lakers and now works as a Lakers broadcaster.

Kobe Bryant was Klay's favorite player – "I tried to emulate my game after him" – so one can only imagine the thrill Thompson experienced when the Warriors played Bryant and the Lakers at Staples on Jan. 6. It was just the sixth game of Thompson's NBA career.

"That was kind of a monumental point in my life," Thompson said, "because I'd been in Staples so much as a kid watching Lakers games. I got to guard him (Bryant) for a few possessions. I thought I did a good job on him; he didn't score on me."

Unfortunately for Thompson and the Warriors, Bryant scored against just about everyone else while piling up 39 points in a 97-90 Lakers win. Thompson scored 14 points, his season high at the time, on 6-for-8 shooting.

"It was fun playing against him," Thompson said. "It was a dream come true."

Golden State played Oklahoma State on Friday, visits Memphis on Saturday before returning home to face the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday. That's typical for an NBA schedule jammed together after a lockout delayed the start of play until Christmas.

"It hasn't been that bad," said Thompson, one of only three Warriors who have played in all 27 games. "I haven't been playing heavy minutes, so I'm still fresh and I'm young. I can play a long time. I mean, it's a grind. If you have a bad game, it's nice; you can redeem yourself in a day and a half or the next night. If you have a good game, you've got to forget about it, because you have to turn around and play."

Thompson grew accustomed to travel during three years in Pullman. Thompson laughed when acknowledging the charter flights that NBA teams take to all road games makes traveling "a little bit" easier than it was in college.

Thompson, who turned 22 on Feb. 8, said he keeps in contact with his former WSU teammates "all the time" and watches as many of their games as possible. He said he's saving most of the money from his two-year, $4.55 million contract, but he did buy himself a new car, and he's renting a nice apartment on scenic Lake Merritt in Oakland.

Thompson said little has surprised him during his first NBA season except for the craftiness of some veterans. He specifically cited the ball screens of point guards Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns and Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers. "I've really been impressed with that," Thompson said.

Thompson, in turn, has impressed everyone with the sweet shooting stroke that helped him lead the Pacific-10 Conference in scoring last season. He's buried four 3-pointers in a game four times and has a season high of 19 points.

"I've just got to keep developing other parts of my game, not just shooting," Thompson said. "If I do that, I think I can be very successful." To which Jackson added, "He's a heck of a player already."

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