Storyline: Klay Thompson Free Agency

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Regardless of Durant’s uncertain future, he is expected to miss at least next season because of his surgically repaired right Achilles tendon. Despite Thompson’s expected return with the Warriors, he will likely sit out a significant chunk to heal his left knee. “I feel positive vibes with them. That’s a given,” Iguodala said. “When we’re communicating, it’s not just on a teammate level. It’s on a friendship level and making sure we’re all good in a good place. I got good vibes with the guys.”

Lowe: “The noise all year has been he’s gonna wait for that max offer from them. From what I’m told, that max offer hasn’t been communicated to him that it’s for sure coming. Right?” Woj: “Right. And you can offer your own free agent a deal at any point here. That 5-year, $190 million max offer — if it’s not there for Klay Thompson on Sunday at 6:01 p.m. Eastern, the Warriors can then expect him to go out and take a meeting, meetings. “But the one team that I think — my information is — he would be very open to going and sit down with is the Clippers. If they have a chance to be able to sell Kawhi Leonard on a partnership with Klay Thompson, that’s an appealing sell for any free agent.”

If Green and Thompson both sign max deals in the next two summers, the Warriors will face a 2020-21 cap hit of about $110 million for Green, Thompson, and Curry alone. That’s not even including Durant, were he to stick around. The Warriors wouldn’t have anything more than draft picks and salary-cap exceptions to fill out the roster around their aging core. It’s why they’ve worked so hard to keep Durant; they’re going to face these challenges no matter what, the question is whether it happens with or without Durant, and how expensive it gets. League sources, to no surprise, expect the Warriors to offer full, five-year max contracts to both Klay and KD this summer. It would be a shocker if Thompson didn’t re-sign. As for KD, perhaps the fifth year could make him think twice about leaving considering how ruptured Achilles injuries have ruined careers before.

Lacob would have to pay a pretty penny to keep those four together. Since they were in the tax three of the past four seasons, the Warriors could have to pay the repeater tax over the next two seasons, which could induce a luxury tax bill of more than $150 million in each season—and that’s for a roster without Durant for at least a year, and little flexibility to add secondary pieces around the core. It’s unrealistic for the Warriors to keep all four players and build a deep roster that can effectively ease their load to keep them healthy deep into the postseason, which goes toward the idea that the one to go may have to be Draymond.

The moments left Mychal Thompson feeling sleepless. It did not tamper his optimism, though. His son, Klay, tore an ACL in his left knee and walked out of the arena on crutches. Then, the Warriors lost to the Toronto Raptors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, hardly the ending they envisioned in their final game at Oracle Arena after winning three NBA titles in the past four years. That only leads to two questions. First, how will this affect Thompson when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 30?

Second, did this mark the end of the Warriors’ dynasty? Not only do the Warriors have questions about Thompson. Kevin Durant is recovering from a surgically repaired right Achilles tendon. The Warriors otherwise have limited purchasing power and a No. 28 pick to bolster their team. Nonetheless, Thompson said that “Klay and Kevin will both be back to wreak havoc among the league.” Thompson also added “the Warriors are far from done.” As for Durant’s free agency? “I always have faith he’ll stay. This is the second-best organization you can play for. Of course, you know what the best one is,” said Thompson who played for the Showtime Lakers and remains a radio analyst for the team’s flagship station. “Why leave a great situation like Golden State? These guys are still going to be championship contenders for years to come.”
2 months ago via ESPN

Thompson’s brother, Mychel, drove him to an imaging center in Berkeley. His parents followed in a separate car. The Warriors were keeping it close deep into the fourth quarter. With just a few minutes remaining in the game, Thompson was wheeled into the MRI machine. The game ended while he was in there. “What happened?” Thompson asked as soon as he finished. “Did we win?” It wasn’t until he learned that the Warriors had lost that he began to consider what this injury might mean to his career. “Do you think this could affect my free agency?” he asked.
2 months ago via ESPN

Durant was on the line, FaceTiming him from New York, where he’s recovering from surgery on his torn Achilles. “I heard them talking,” said Klay’s father, Mychal Thompson, said of the conversation. “But I don’t think they’d want me to divulge it.” Durant was probably the only person in the world who could relate to exactly what Thompson was feeling in that moment. His dad knew to give them space. “They were encouraging each other to come back strong,” Mychal Thompson said. “They got unfinished business.”

The Warriors likely will officially offer guard Klay Thompson a maximum free-agent contract at the first moment NBA rules allow it. If so, Thompson almost certainly will re-sign with the only franchise he’s ever known. Thompson has been a key part of Golden State’s three championships and their current run to the NBA finals, where the Warriors are tied 2-2 with the Raptors. That’s how it’s likely to play out for Thompson when free agency begins July 1. But if the Warriors don’t immediately offer Thompson a max contract of five years and about $190 million, I’m told he will listen to free-agent pitches from other teams. And if that happens, the Hawks are confident they’d get a chance to persuade Thompson to sign with them.

Carlos Boozer: But to help in that regard, they can have a chance to make some real noise, especially depending on what happens with the Golden State Warriors. There’s all this news about KD (Kevin Durant) and who knows what happens with Boogie (DeMarcus Cousins). I’m hearing that Klay (Thompson) might want to go to the Lakers. I don’t know why they would break up, because they got a rock star thing going on over there that reminds me of the Bulls with (Michael) Jordan and (Scottie) Pippen in the ’90s of going to the Finals every year, but whatever happens, if that marriage gets divorced and some of those players leave, and if any of those free agents want to come to Utah and join with Donovan Mitchell and the rest of that crew, they could really make some noise. I like that foundation, I just thought they were a player away, like an All-Star player away from being a real contender.

No, this was about the principle. It was about respect. And it was about acknowledging and understanding his vital contributions — on offense and defense — to this living and breathing dynasty. “Everybody is saying it’s about money, but it’s not,” his father, Mychal Thompson, said in a phone interview late last week. “It’s about recognition for his two-way contribution. “Frankly, I thought that the media was more savvy about what it takes to be a champion. Not just focusing on one side of the court — you need both sides consistently to get to the level where the Warriors are at, why they’re such a great team. Put the focus on both sides.”

So losing a shot at $31 million more is never going to feel tremendous, but Thompson still will be doing just fine. “Yeah, it’s a lot of money,” Mychal Thompson said. “But when you are talking about the astronomical numbers that the best NBA players make, you can’t quibble over it because you’re still making generational-changing money. Too many people out there struggling in the world to make ends meet for anybody to be whining about not making $30 million more.”
3 months ago via ESPN

In addition to the sting of the snub, Thompson will not be eligible this summer to sign a five-year supermax contract worth $221 million. He’ll instead be eligible for a five-year max deal worth $191 million with the Warriors once he becomes a free agent on July 1. “I didn’t? It already came out?” Thompson said after Thursday’s practice, before being told that he just missed being selected for the third team. “I mean that’s cool and all but like when you go to five straight Finals, I respect those guys but when you go to five straight it takes more than just a couple All-NBA guys. It’s like an all-time team, but whatever, I’d rather win a championship than be third-team All-NBA, so it’s all good.”

So I checked with owner Joe Lacob via text on Tuesday afternoon, pointing out that he’s been quite clear about paying what it takes to keep this team together and asking if anything has changed or if his stance is even stronger after the Warriors’ Western Conference triumph. “The season is still ongoing,” Lacob responded. “We are not finished. I have no new ideas or data for you. We love Klay and KD and intend to attempt to re-sign them. Period. I am confident about BOTH of them. “But it is their choice to do what is best for them. They have earned that right. Our goal is to keep our team together. We are pretty good.”

Joe Lacob: My great hope is that Klay, as with Draymond and – frankly – KD; all of them who are guys that you’re referring to. …And frankly, I love DeMarcus Cousins too. I mean, he’s another guy who (he’d like to keep). (But) we can only do what we can do within the framework of the collective bargaining agreement. We really like our players – each and every one of them. Draymond has been with us since the beginning. There’s a certain place in my heart for him. Same with Klay. And all I was trying to say by that is that I really personally like them a lot for what they bring to the table. That’s a personal comment, and I really want to see them stay – to be Warriors for life and hopefully build statues for them.

Klay Thompson was always seen as a sure thing to stay, but there’s a very real temperature-taking process happening behind the scenes right now. And if feelings get hurt along the way, if Thompson decides that all those years of service weren’t respected by owner Joe Lacob in the kind of way that he believes he deserves, then the Warriors could be promoting Steph Curry as their Splash Single Child in the new building. Draymond Green is due for an extension this summer, and his decision to send that Klutch Sports flare up in the air back in February was as clear a warning as you’ll find that – with his possible free agency coming in 2020 – he’s coming for the best deal his market can bear too.`

As for Thompson, his emotional state will no longer be in question if the Warriors offer the full five-year, $189.7 million max contract that he so desires at the very start of free agency. Anything less, a source with knowledge of his situation says, and the Warriors run the risk of inspiring him to test other waters (speaking of symbolism and optics, by the way, Klay’s recent Southern California tale in the first round was too good to be true: He literally told a story about how testing LA waters was the key to his success while wearing shades).
3 months ago via ESPN

Chatter surrounding the All-Star swingman’s future has played out largely under the radar — exactly the way he wants it. When asked recently why it has meant so much to produce and stay with the Warriors in the future, Thompson gave the type of simple and understated response that has defined his tenure in the Bay. “I think it’s just the only thing I’ve known professionally,” Thompson told ESPN. “I saw the dark days and now I’ve seen the glory days. And it’s cool to see the process. You appreciate the work it takes to get there. It’s simple. I just appreciate how long it took to get to the mountaintop, the work it did, and just seeing how — empower people in the community and really build this fan base to something special.”
3 months ago via ESPN

So why aren’t the Warriors sweating Thompson’s future like they are with Durant? “The media, I think, give him a little bit of a break as far as over-speculating and throwing him into the fire because he hasn’t really fueled it — at all,” said Warriors center Andrew Bogut, who has been Thompson’s teammate for five seasons over his two stints with the team. “You’ve never heard him say anything bad about wanting to leave here or going to another team or being the No. 1 option. You’ve never even heard that off the record. Some players say the right thing publicly but have different feelings [in private]. He completely wants to be here and he gets it that this is a very rare situation.”

While he didn’t go into detail on Durant besides pointing out the obvious fact that the Warriors want to re-sign him, Wojnarowski did offer some interesting insight into a potential destination for Thompson. If the Warriors don’t offer him the max, Thompson could look to join the Los Angeles Clippers. Via ESPN: “If they come with a five-year, $190 million max deal for Klay Thompson, that’s done on July 1. He’s going into the new building with Steph Curry. If they try to do anything less than that, you can expect Klay Thompson to be out in free agency. Watch not for the Lakers then, but the Clippers.”

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t get bugged around his neighborhood, where strangers approach him in the grocery store or at the coffee shop and ask if Klay is coming back to Los Angeles to team up with LeBron James and lead the franchise back into the postseason. “I can’t go anywhere,” Mychal said. “Ultimately it’s a compliment: Lakers fans want him to play here. But I don’t think that way. I think the Lakers are gonna be fine. I don’t see Klay coming out here as a savior.”

The Lakers will now turn their attention to an offseason in which they are expected to revisit trade options for Davis, while also chasing top targets in free agency – as unlikely as it is that Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson will come, according to a league source who believes the Lakers will be second or third on those players’ lists. The fear that the Lakers could strike out with their top targets has already led to some message massaging. “You don’t need names, you need games,” a source close to James told The Athletic. The Lakers could build a team of complementary pieces better suited for James, like Boston’s Marcus Morris or Milwaukee’s Nikola Mirotic, and fare better than they did this season. But it would run counter to Johnson’s stated philosophy. After all, on a World Series broadcast last fall, Johnson declared, “I’m going to get another superstar next summer!”

Kevin Durant ready to move on from Warriors?

Or it may end this summer, when Cousins, Durant and Thompson are all expected to be free agents (assuming Durant opts out of the $31.5 million last year on his contract). The players may agree to stay together or choose to seek out other challenges. The buzz from various executives, scouts and media members suggests that Durant is ready to move on. Thompson, if offered the max, will stay. If not, he too could exit. The Warriors may not be able to match market value for Cousins.

Chris Haynes: “With Klay Thompson, Golden State needs to have a max offer on the table right when midnight hits [on July 1, 2019]. If you want to wait until 12:01 to put down that max contract, you’re opening the door for the Lakers. Period. If they want to take care of business, [they’ll offer the max right away]. And I think they will, since they have that brand new Chase Center opening up and they want to have their core guys on the roster going into that arena.”

Adrian Wojnarowski: “The best-case scenario for the Lakers is they add Anthony Davis, and then Golden State doesn’t offer Klay Thompson a max contract. They try to get Klay to take a little less than the max and if that happens I’m told Klay’s attention will be on the Lakers if they have Anthony Davis. Now we’ll see what Golden State does there. They’ve got a lot of players to pay going forward. They want to re-sign Kevin Durant. They certainly want to re-sign Klay, they’ve got Draymond Green coming up in free agency the following year.”

On the other hand, James had never extended public praise to Klay before this season. It’s of a similar vein to Luke Walton hanging with Klay on a Qatar trip this offseason, in what many around the league saw as part of a soft recruitment. While Thompson has indicated an interest in remaining a “Warrior for life,” his return cannot just be taken for granted. Still, the expectation within and outside the Warriors is that Klay isn’t leaving. This is why you don’t hear about any team besides the Lakers gearing up for the Summer of Klay.

Thompson will turn 29 this season and will hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career next summer. With upward of a decade more of professional hoops remaining, Thompson could decide to wear a different uniform. And were he to hit free agency, it would be at a time when his particular skill set has never been more valued by this league. Every single team has shooting at the top of its wish list. The Lakers would definitely love a shot at pairing him with LeBron James. But the expectation across the league is that Thompson will re-sign with Golden State. Executives I’ve spoken with said they would be shocked if Thompson left the Warriors.

No hometown discount

Another wild card: What if Golden State signals it doesn’t want to pay full freight for one of Klay Thompson (a free agent this summer) and Draymond Green (a free agent in the summer of 2020, potentially up for a massive designated player extension after this season)? Thompson has no plans to take a discount, and the Warriors don’t expect him to, league sources say. Green already is dealing with small injuries; the league is curious about how his game will age.

You mentioned, I think at the end of last season, that you were going approach Klay Thompson and Draymond Green with contract extension offers. Did that happen? Was there any progress made with either one of them? Joe Lacob: I’ll let Bob address those, specifically. But I think it’s fair to say we’ve had discussions with both of them over the summer, their representatives. Nothing’s been done or you’d hear about it. But we’d love to retain them long term in the organization and we will do whatever it takes to do that.

One name that’s flown under the radar to a large extent — despite a seamless fit and connections to the Lakers organization — is Klay Thompson, and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN says his name has come up with those she’s spoken to in an appearance on “ESPNLA Mornings with Keyshawn, LZ and Travis”: “In terms of who they target next year, it’s whoever wants to come. “My feeling about it, my sense from just talking to people in and around this (is that) one, it’s a little early, but I think they like Mychal’s boy. I think that would be the guy, in terms of skillset and how that would fit. Obviously Kawhi, he’s a great player as well, but we’ll see if he stays in Toronto now. But I think they like Klay (Thompson).”

Adrian Wojnarowski: “Klay Thompson has – I had him on the podcast at the All-Star weekend this past year – he kinda said the same thing, he’s been very consistent: ‘I wanna be here, I don’t imagine playing anywhere else.’ And I think that if the Warriors are in position to offer him the full max right out of the gate, and not have to try to finesse him to take a little less to fit everybody in, if he got offered the full max, I don’t know that he’d look anywhere else. If he gets offered a little less [than the full max] then maybe he looks.”

“He’s got such a good thing here,” Mychal Thompson said. “The Warriors have such a special thing here. For the next six or seven years they’re going to be championship material, they’re not going to break that up. The Bulls (with Michael Jordan) were broken up too prematurely. (Warriors owners) Joe Lacob and Peter Guber aren’t going to let that happen. Are you kidding? They can afford it. They’re the Warriors, this is the Bay Area, they got a beautiful arena, and money’s no object for this team.”

And after reflecting on winning his third NBA championship with the Warriors in the past four years, Thompson hardly sounded interested in a change of scenery when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next July. “I’ve said it many times before: I would like to be a Warrior for life,” Thompson told Bay Area News Group before hosting a party at Hotel Vitale as a prelude to his first annual Thompson Family Foundation Golf Tournament on Sunday at TPC Harding Park. “Contract negotiations are way down the line. But I think we all have the same interest. I would love to be here for the rest of my career.”

The twist: there is no law that Thompson and Green have to demand the max from the Warriors. Yes, each or both might try to wring every dollar possible, and they have earned the right to ask for it, but the environment seems to point to one or both signing less-than-max extensions before hitting free agency. “Look, we know the numbers,” Myers said. “I don’t think we’re running from those things. … (But) we’ve got a group of players and an ownership group that wants to keep it together. That’s very competitive. Both sides. You’ve heard Klay’s comments (saying he might take less than his max to stay with the Warriors). You’ve been around Draymond. He wants to keep winning.

“We’ll keep talking about it (with Thompson). We talked about that last year (during preseason) in China, we’ll continue to talk about it. For those guys, it’s their choice. We’ll try to pay them what’s fair. And it takes two. I know and understand, they’ve gotta like the deal, too. … “I’ll tell you this, Klay’s not driven monetarily. I think he wants to be paid fairly. I think Draymond’s the same way. And obviously Kevin, he’s shown it, that he doesn’t have to have every last penny. … I feel like if we can create a place that gives them a chance to win a championship, get paid well, enjoy going to work every day — and people think an NBA player loves going to work every day. That’s not true; maybe it should be, but it isn’t. If we can create a place where players enjoy it, the hope is they want to continue to do that.”

Yeah, the next thing. You have Klay and Draymond down the road, and KD this summer. But do you feel like the argument — the fact — that this group has gone to four straight Finals is kind of a trump card over any possible object that anyone might have? Bob Myers: Winning is the only time you don’t have to answer questions. It’s the only time. Twenty-nine other GMs, you have to answer, ‘what if?’ ‘why didn’t you?’ Every coach, every player. You only get to have this emotion once, and it means you have to win. It doesn’t mean, though, that you have a perfect team or that you have a perfect life by any stretch. But for me, it means that you appreciate these guys, you try to keep it together, you thank the people — for me, my family, my wife, the people that went on the journey with you. The sacrifice, the things that nobody knows about. That’s the part you try to keep your eye on. And as far as the group, you value the guys that helped you do it, the players, the coaching staff, people I work with in the front office. I don’t know. I think you treasure each moment with these people. Like I said, I mean, you’ve worked with a ton of people. They change. People come and go, for whatever reason — some good, some bad. It doesn’t matter. It’s life.
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