Don’t Call Klay Thompson A Coward

One of the more eye opening revelations in the Draymond Green article written by Ethan Sherwood (ESPN the Magazine) is a quote by a Warriors team official in which the official called the Warriors cowards for losing game 5 of the NBA Finals, a possible series clinching win to give the Warriors back-to-back titles. It was the game Draymond Green was suspended.

Because context matters, this was the article narrative. The relationship Green had with his teammates, an aggressive push and pull in your face all the time, no off switch, no chill, no relax and let us be us, got real old and tired very fast. Implied was the fact that the Warriors have Draymond Green fatigue. Former Warrior and now Los Angeles Clippers Marreese Speights said that Klay Thompson and Draymond Green fought all year long. And so the reasoning went as follows. If Draymond Geren gets on your nerves, if you think he bullies you at times, if you think he crosses the line, if you think you don’t need him, then in game 5 have the last word. Eliminate the Cavs. Show Draymond he isn’t the most important piece of this team. Celebrate without him. Force him to be accountable for his behavior whereas he doesn’t even get the benefit of that one moment when the clock runs out and the confetti rains down and the Warriors are champs. Win it without him.

But. The Warriors were destroyed in that game. They couldn’t make shots. They couldn’t rebound. Harrison Barnes was a disaster. The Cavs shot 53% compared to the Warriors 36%. The Warriors bench was 5-20. The Cavs bench was 6-12. LeBron James took 30 shots and connected on 53.3% of them. Kyrie Irving took 24 shots and connected on 70.8% of them. Defense was just standing around and watching. No toughness. No fight.

According to a Warriors team official: “The guys might be frustrated by his [Draymond Green] antics but they had an opportunity to prove themselves without him in Game 5 and they played like a bunch of cowards.”

That rubbed Klay Thompson the wrong way.  The word coward. First: the “team official” cloaked himself in anonymity. He wouldn’t give his name. He flung the y’all were soft card and wouldn’t back it up with his credentials, including his name and title.

“How are you not going to put your name to that quote. It’s easy to point at someone and call them a coward, behind a shade or a shield you know? But why don’t you put your name to it and then you can call us cowards.” (Klay Thompson)

But more to the point, Klay was the best thing going that night. He made 11-20 shots. He drained 6 threes. He led the team in free throws and made all nine that he took. He led the team with 37 points. He laid it all out there, all on the line. It’s not his fault Harrison Barnes went 2-14 and Steph went 8-21 and Bogut didn’t score.

This is the truth about Strength in Numbers. It erases the individual performance. So while Klay is railing against being called a coward, and there was nothing cowardly about his game, the identity of this NBA team is we not me. When the rest of the team fails so do you, despite playing your ass off. But even if teammates underperform in the moment, that doesn’t translate into cowardice.

Were the Warriors cowards? No. Did they miss Draymond. Absolutely. They didn’t get the same ball movement, screen and roll open looks, swagger and toughness. Draymond helps the helper and they had no one for LeBron. LeBron had the kind of game all great players have. When they are on, it is demoralizing.

Here is the crime.  You expect slander and ridicule from the outside world. But when someone in your own franchise family calls you a coward-a coward lacks heart, a coward has no guts. they hide from the tough things- how then do you collectively support each other through adversity when you are being mocked and ridiculed from the inside? Either you are with us or you are not. From an organizational cultural view, the cultivation of  faith in the team on the floor is a requirement. Whoever works upstairs and thinks the Warriors are cowards have their job identity twisted. The Warriors bang the drum for good character people throughout their organization, top to bottom. How did this over reactive bad apple slip through? The same team he called cowards were the same group of men who won 73 games.

Klay is right. There is one coward and it’s not the Warriors players. It is the “team official” who wouldn’t give his name. You prepare for spite from  other teams but when it is one of your own it feels like treason.


photo via llananba