Steve Kerr Klay Thompson Getty

LAS VEGAS – Steve Kerr’s primary responsibility now is to lead a storied group of superstars for Team USA Men’s Basketball to finish their careers at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris and bring home the gold.

The Warriors coach isn’t oblivious to one of the NBA’s greatest stories right now. Clay Thompson Going to the Dallas Mavericks in free agency. Before Kerr took questions Saturday from the Mendenhall Center at UNLV on the opening day of Team USA’s training camp, he first took time to thank Thompson for his impressive performance in a Warriors jersey.

Kerr said: “I want to say thank you to Klay Thompson for 13 amazing years,” Kerr began. “The relationship he’s made for the team, for the organization, for the Bay Area, for me personally — the relationship that we’ve all had incredible success with, but most of all, just going through it all together has been meaningful and amazing.”

“We’re going to miss Klein. We wish him the best. These things rarely go where you want them to and they all come out together. We were hoping this might happen, but it didn’t and we wish Clay the best.

“We love him and miss him. Clay, if you’re watching this, thanks for everything.

Thompson was 24 years old entering his fourth season as a Warrior when Kerr replaced Mark Jackson as head coach. Kerr was 49 years old at the time and began his coaching career in any capacity. Southern California natives with close proximity to the coast were well suited for each other.

Thompson and Steph Curry – Expanding on a backcourt highlight that featured former Warriors sharpshooters – the former Warriors shooting guard became an instant All-Star in Kerr’s first year as head coach. They also won their first title together that 2014-15 season, starting five straight trips to the NBA Finals and matching three rings.

That 2014-15 season was Thompson’s first as an All-Star. He earned the honor five years in a row, was named All-NBA his first two seasons under Kerr and was named to the All-Defensive Team in 2018-19.

The feeling of Thompson turning the page and starting a new chapter hasn’t quite hit Kerr yet. The two talked throughout Thompson’s decision, and Kerr said he received a “very good explanation” of how the now 34-year-old’s mentality feels is best for him at this stage of his career. After playing three years at Washington State, the only basketball homes Thompson knew were Oakland’s Oracle Arena and San Francisco’s Chase Center in the Bay Area.

Kerr’s playing career included six different cities that served as his NBA home: Phoenix, Cleveland, Orlando, Chicago, San Antonio and Portland. Change can be necessary, even necessary for some. Of course, Kerr wanted nothing more than a direct shot at Thompson’s path to the Hall of Fame.

It’s moving in Dallas’ direction, even if it doesn’t affect his position in the longtime coach’s heart.

“I completely understand,” Kerr said. “Sometimes in life we ​​all need a change. Just a fresh start, whatever. No matter what profession you’re in, sometimes you just need a change, and I think that’s it. This is the easiest way to explain why Clay is leaving. He’s going to be amazing at media day without him.

Injuries to two legs — a torn ACL in Game 6 of 2019 and a torn Achilles in November 2020 — took a toll on Thompson. The past two years have been mental and physical battles that Thompson could never have imagined. How could he have?

He was sent to the bench for the first time under Kerr last season, replaced by rookie Brandin Podzimski. As Thompson’s body and game changed, so did his role against the Warriors. He felt disrespected even though the Warriors offered him a contract last season worth $2 million less than he signed with the Mavericks and more than $7 million per season compared to his new contract.

Kerr, who felt like bad blood in a high-profile rift between player and front office, wasn’t always close to the love he had for Thompson, and vice versa. They went through the glory days together, and the Splash Brother felt Thompson’s deep pain for two and a half years before celebrating his return to the court as champion once again.

And when the two discussed Thompson’s departure, there were likely a few tears.

“It’s not easy when these things start to end, but the great thing is that the relationships last,” Kerr said. “The memories will live on. Clay is going to have a statue outside Chase one day. He will be forever loved by his teammates and coaches and our fans.”

“It’s never easy, but I think everything is for everyone.”

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