Thompson: Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson — a trio for the ages

SAN FRANCISCO — Andre Iguodala, with his Western Conference champions T-shirt over his light burgundy long-sleeve polo, has a theory about why the Warriors’ championship core is underappreciated. They are too tangible. Not just them, all NBA players. He is convinced this all-access era works against Golden State’s prominent trio.

Iguodala understands Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson to be rare gems and even more exquisite in how they coalesce. Yet he watches how people relate to them. He hears how they are talked about. He witnesses them be commodified in the modern machine. And Iguodala can’t help but roll his eyes at what people are missing.

Brilliance isn’t always meant to be touched. It’s properly experienced from ample distance. That’s how one fully appreciates the complexity and layers of grandeur.

The beauty of the NBA is how close the players feel to fans, how intimate of a relationship players have with their followers. But it’s hard to behold something so frequently held. The luster gets lost beneath fingerprints. Iguodala can see how the overexposure of the contemporary landscape deprives the Warriors’ foundational pieces of proper awe. Especially Curry.

“I met Michael Jordan when I was 18 years old at his first-ever Jordan Brand Classic,” Iguodala said. “I was almost in tears. Because I saw him. People are so close to it now, and we can just touch them. We can capture them with a camera phone. So it kind of takes away that reverence, and it’s taken for granted. They think this can just keep being reproduced. … And there are so many hot takes and people who have no business speaking on it. It just kind of makes you a little sick. This is the world we live in. But this is something special. I’ll say this — in 10, 15 years, people are going to be like, ‘Damn, we didn’t appreciate it.’”

Now is the time to stop and take a step back. Digest the grandeur in its totality. Appreciate the resilience of this greatness.

On June 13, 2019, Curry, Green and Thompson each walked off the Oracle Arena floor into an uncertain future. Curry was bombarded with defensive schemes aimed at his eradication. Green’s offense had declined, and he was facing bigger and more athletic versions of himself. Thompson had a torn ACL. Kevin Durant was hurt and expected to leave in free agency. Iguodala’s departure was imminent. Even their hallowed arena in Oakland was turning off its lights. The price of their five-year run was reaching astronomical levels. Some, including many Warriors fans, prognosticated their demise.

Yet Thursday, the Warriors clinched a spot in the NBA Finals for the sixth time in eight years. In doing so, they validated themselves, proven by the test of time and the adversity of injury. After two years of missing the playoffs, Curry, Green and Thompson have carried the Warriors back to where they belong and where they promised themselves they would return. Their ability to resume their dominance of the West is proof it was, indeed, them all along: the Warriors Trinity, the foundation on which this whole era was built.

They are here again because individually they are built for the bright lights. They are here again because as a unit, they complement and elevate each other. They are here again because their style of play and the tone they set makes them compatible with a multitude of skills and players, provided they come with a winning mindset.

Back in 2020, when the Warriors were putting together their version of the bubble, their stars opted out. Curry didn’t show up once. Neither did Green. Thompson, back from a torn ACL, was done after one visit. More practice wasn’t the solution. They knew they didn’t need a special camp, secluded from the coronavirus, to reclaim their former glory.

“We kept telling ourselves,” Green said, “that when we get back healthy and we get back whole, we’re going to do it again. We never stop believing that. We know what we’re capable of.”

The trio of basketball brothers, bonded by their covenant to win, made sure each remembered their collective truth. While many in the basketball world poured out a little liquor on the headstone of their reign, often using their hiatus from the main stage to impeach their legitimacy, the Warriors’ trio kept sharing the same message within their circle. Over text messages. On FaceTime calls. At dinners. In side conversations in practice. In quick, intimate huddles during games. So much around them was changing. But as long as they were together, as long as they had each other, as long as they did what they do, they would win big.

What was true then is still true now: Curry, Green and Thompson — when all three are healthy — have been nearly impossible to beat with Steve Kerr as their coach.

“This one is very sweet just because of where we were in 2019,” Curry said. “We never lost faith, but you understand how hard of a process it was going to be to climb that mountain again. … I think internally we are all extremely proud of what it took to get back here.

“Yeah, it’s definitely sweet based on what we went through.”


By the end of the Western Conference finals, Luka Dončić was running like a man who’d flown across two time zones in a middle seat. His valiant effort to pull off a miracle for his Mavericks, who made Game 5 competitive after being down 25, must’ve felt like the weight of Texas on his shoulders. Try as he might, the Warriors always had an answer in Thursday’s 120-110 win, capping the gentleman’s sweep of Dallas.

Curry didn’t play particularly well after rolling his ankle just over three minutes into the game. But it became more evidence why a team featuring these three is so hard to beat. Thompson had 32 points and became the first player to make eight 3-pointers in two closeout games in the same postseason. Green, the defensive anchor, put up 17 points on seven shots to go with nine assists.

That’s the thing about the three of them — taking out one opens the window for the other two. They’ve endured and experienced just about everything while together. Injuries. Heart-breaking losses. Drama. Each other’s flaws. They’ve grown up together, started families and businesses, in a sense gone their separate ways off the court. None of it has loosened the fabric weaving them together. Because the common thread undergirding their respect for and belief in each other is their relentlessness. They can bank on the fight in one another. That’s why Kerr, just as fiery, can lead them. Their story can’t be told without Kerr, the ideal conductor.

“All the pieces fit,” Curry said. “Our personalities fit. So much trust in each other. But we are all just so competitive at the end of the day. That’s carried us.”

Dončić shouldn’t feel bad. He is now part of an elite group of players who’ve succumbed to the inevitability of these Warriors. LeBron James. Durant and Russell Westbrook. James Harden. Damian Lillard. Anthony Davis. Chris Paul. Kyrie Irving. Nikola Jokić. Dwight Howard. Some bonafide Hall of Famers have run into the Warriors and walked away just like Dončić did. Overwhelmed. Having to re-think their plans. Lacquering a salve of what-ifs on their wounded pride.

The Warriors are just the fourth NBA franchise to have reached the finals six times in eight years. They join the Lakers (the Jerry West and Magic Johnson eras), Celtics (Bill Russell era) and Bulls (Michael Jordan era). Of the five major pro team sports, the Warriors are just the 13th franchise to reach the championship round in six of eight seasons. In addition to the four NBA teams that have done it: the Yankees of MLB; the Oilers, Maple Leafs, Red Wings and Canadiens of the NHL; the Browns, Packers and New York Giants of the NFL; and the Lynx of the WNBA.

The Warriors are 22-4 in the 26 series since this playoff era began in April 2013. They’ve won three series over higher seeds. They’ve lost just once when they’ve had home-court advantage.

Here is another way to look at it: Only three teams in the past 10 seasons can make the claim of beating a Warriors team with a healthy Curry, Green and Thompson in a best-of-seven series.

Two of them came before they found their championship stride — the 2013 San Antonio Spurs in the West semifinals and the 2014 LA Clippers in the first round. Both caught the Warriors’ burgeoning stars while young and inexperienced. Both had a hand in teaching them valuable lessons about winning, lessons that would groom the Warriors’ anchors into champions.

“As early as my second year,” Thompson said when asked when he knew they would be special. “We were so young. We took on an experienced, dynastic San Antonio team in a hard-fought series. After that, I was like: ‘Gosh, we’re going toe-to-toe with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. If we build on this, we could have a great future.’ For us to acquire Andre that next summer, we went through some growing pains still in 2014, but I could feel it. We were just in our early 20s.”

The third loss came to the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals, and that required Curry being limited by a sprained knee, Green getting suspended for a pivotal Game 5, injuries to key role players Iguodala and Andrew Bogut — and, of course, masterful performances by LeBron, Kyrie and Cavs coach Tyronn Lue.

None of this is a slight to the Warriors’ playoff opponents. The 2019 Toronto Raptors were rightful champions, as injuries are part of surviving the postseason gauntlet. But it does provide perspective on just how special this Warriors’ core has been, and still is. Whenever they do lose a playoff series, it is looking less like an indictment on them and more a boon to the legacy of whoever beat them. If the Celtics or Heat knock off the Warriors in the 2022 NBA Finals, they’d join an exclusive group.

But before looking ahead to potentially their fourth championship, Curry, Green and Thompson should rightfully be celebrated. They’re in their 30s now, with the scars and gray hairs to prove it. They have a new cast around them. Yet they made the finals again. After kicking the tires on a few stars, before ultimately stocking up on youth and veteran journeymen, the Warriors leaned in on their three stalwarts. They banked on them still being formidable while bringing along unproven role players. They didn’t sign a big man, didn’t pick up a veteran on the buyout market. The whole time, this season was riding on their big three still being top-shelf. They were.

This time, they did it against a league they created. Curry, Green and Thompson changed the NBA. Teams followed their blueprint to dominance — the 3-point shooting, the switching defense, the agile-power forwards as centers, the long-armed athletic wings. Few teams embodied the NBA the Warriors created as much as Dallas. The Mavericks play with five shooters, have no true center and are led by an incredible point guard who can shoot.

Even in the East, Golden State’s imprint is present. So if the Warriors win a title, they will have changed the league and then conquered the league they inspired.

“I think they’re a really unique trio just in terms of how they complement one another in every way,” Kerr said. “They’re such different players. Draymond is kind of our point forward. He’s the best defender in the league. He’s our emotional leader. Steph and Klay already established themselves as this amazing shooting backcourt. But they needed each other from the beginning. Klay (handled) some of the tougher defensive assignments to allow Steph to be able to focus more on the offensive end. Then the three of them together, the way they move the ball, they pass and cut. It’s beautiful to watch.”

During the offseason of 2021, all three of the Warriors’ core recruited Iguodala to return to the Bay Area. They wanted their “super vet,” as Green calls him. They told him they needed him to get back to the mountaintop. Curry promised endless rounds of golf.

It was Iguodala who first saw the potential in them. Before even the Warriors did. He faced them in that 2013 series against Denver and learned live what was so special about them. He orchestrated his way to the Warriors, and his arrival elevated their games.

In many ways, Iguodala was the beta for what this trio could be.

He was the first player to show talent could fit with them. He was an All-Star who came to the Warriors before any of the three were. Green was still a reserve and Thompson was just stepping into his role as the Robin to Curry’s Batman, a role David Lee previously held until he got injured in their first postseason. It was their joy that lured Iguodala. How they simultaneously shined and sacrificed. How they were hoopers at their core and preoccupied with winning. How they always had space at the table for anyone looking to feast with them.

Iguodala was the spark that led to Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa. And eventually Kevin Durant, Zaza Pachulia and David West. And now the renovation of Andrew Wiggins and Otto Porter Jr.

“I think the ability to set the table for pretty much anybody that comes in,” Curry said, “be a part of the fold, find their way, elevate their game, take that next step wherever they are in their career — I think we pride ourselves on that more than what we do individually. Because you got a lot of examples of guys that have been elsewhere and come here and found success. To be able to do it on the biggest of stages, that’s not easy to do. … We found a way to create the culture that it starts with us, but everybody else gets to eat, too. I guess that’s the fun part.”

In Chase Center on Thursday night, the fun was beginning.

It was Green hoisting the Oscar Robertson Trophy for the Western Conference champions while his teammates converged on him to get a hand on the hardware.

It was Green hoisting Curry when the point guard was given the Magic Johnson Award as Western Conference finals MVP.

It was Thompson, being hoisted as the hero of the night. Beneath roars from the crowd dipped in yellow, the color of happiness, Thompson got emotional trying to explain his joy. If anyone can speak to the doubt about his ability to get back here, it’s him. If anyone can appreciate the significance of them making it this far, it’s him. On this night, Thompson, whose absence was responsible for the Warriors’ postseason hiatus, exemplified the excellence of this Warriors trio. A rendering of their greatness. An illustration of their tenacity. A portrait of their capacity.

If you take a step back and view them from a wider perspective, you’ll see the masterpiece Iguodala sees. Appreciation will follow.


Related reading

Slater: Steph Curry’s stability, above all else, delivers Warriors to another NBA Finals
Kawakami: A Warriors triumph full of thunder, profound satisfaction — ‘We back!’
Amick: Nintendo Klay, trophy-hunting Steph, Luka’s long view

(Photo: Noah Graham / NBAE via Getty Images)

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