Warriors’ Klay Thompson not thinking about free agency after elimination

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in San Francisco. (Nic Coury/AP Photo)

SAN FRANCISCO — Fighting his emotions from the most frustrating of nights, Klay Thompson peered high into the upper deck of Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center and caught a glimpse of one remaining fan wearing his No. 11 jersey.

That moment meant a great deal to him, a lasting memory to take into the offseason that is far sweeter than his 0-for-10 shooting performance in a 118-94 loss at Sacramento in the play-in tournament Tuesday night that ended the Warriors season without a playoff berth.

“I did look up in the nosebleeds, though, and I did see a man wearing a number 11 jersey. That made me happy, considering my history in Sacramento from playing a state championship there to playing the Kings in the playoffs,” Thompson shared Tuesday when the biggest burning question was whether he’d be wearing that same No. 11 jersey next season.

“That was kind of a full circle going for me. So that was actually a good moment, just seeing that Warriors fan standing by his lonesome up in the 300 level repping 11. That made me grateful.”

Thompson knows he wants to keep winning and has his sights set on a fifth championship before calling it a career.

Where that might be is one of the biggest decisions for Thompson and Golden State going into the offseason.

“Obviously, you want to keep winning. I mean, when you’ve been a part of winning seasons, you don’t really want to go away from that. So I would like to win again. One for the thumb would be nice,” he said of having a ring on each finger of one hand. “I still think it’s in reach. It’s just going to, yeah, take a huge effort. But other than that, just got to think about that, what will really make you happy in the last few years of your career.”

For now, Thompson insisted he needs some time to decompress first. The season was a grind. He went in and out of the starting lineup and said he has learned not to be what he calls a “front-runner.”

“You sulk, you pout when you’re not shooting up to your expected splits,” he said. “I think I did better with that this year, just trying to exude great body language at all times and think deeper than just stats, think about your love for the game and why you do play this game.”

Several times Thompson has expressed his desire to stay with Golden State for his entire career, saying earlier this year, “I would love to be a Warrior for life.”

Still, he has noted he also must explore his options.

“So I really haven’t thought about that deep into the future because I still need to process the year we had and it was one filled with ups and downs,” he said. “But ultimately, we — I personally and our team did everything we could to try and win as many games as we possibly could.”

Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and the rest of the Warriors certainly hope he will remain with Golden State to continue that title hunt and that this wasn’t his final game with them — though Curry’s Splash Brother wasn’t ready to make any bold statements about what’s next while still feeling the sting of season being over far sooner than anybody would have imagined.

Thompson missed all six of his 3-point tries, too. It was especially hard for coach Steve Kerr to watch.

“I love Klay so much, I mean what he’s meant to me in the 10 years we’ve been together,” Kerr said. “I’ve watched him the last couple of years fighting the feeling of devastation from the injuries and I’ve watched him really flip his season around with his approach. I saw him enjoy the second half of the season, playing with a little more freedom, a little more joy.”

The 34-year-old Thompson will become a free agent in July with his expiring five-year contract worth nearly $190 million.

“He’s been here his whole career,” teammate Kevon Looney said Wednesday. “When you think about the Warriors you think Steph, you think him, you think Draymond, and so it would be weird seeing him put on another jersey or competing for somebody else. But the NBA, guys switch more than stay on the same team nowadays. It would be hard for me to imagine that.”

Thompson still takes great pride his triumphant return from missing more than 2 1/2 years — the entire 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons — recovering from surgeries on his left knee and right Achilles.

He is determined to keep playing and proving people wrong.

“When that time comes, I mean I’m not trying to put an expiration date on my career,” Thompson said, “that’s kind of something you just go by feel.”

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