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Steve Kerr remembers the trickiness of coaching Headband Klay’s masterpiece


Klay Thompson was returning to the floor. The Bulls were the opponent. A holiday was approaching.

Wednesday’s matchup against Chicago rekindled some memories for the Warriors, even if Oct. 29, 2018, feels like a lifetime ago.

At Chase Center, Thompson’s return would not be as a basketball player, but rather holding a mic and becoming Reporter Klay, set to serve as sideline reporter in the second quarter as he rehabs from an ACL tear. It was a different Klay, though — Headband Klay — that Steve Kerr was asked about before another game with Chicago.

“I remember the floodgates opened up because he had been really struggling before that game,” Kerr said, remembering the late-October game in which Thompson exploded for an NBA-record 14 3s. “That was the game that opened everything up for him.”

Fifty-two points in just 26:33, without playing the fourth quarter, will do that. Thompson couldn’t miss and his teammates wouldn’t stop looking for him, the result of the game — long decided — taking a backseat as the Warriors rooted for and tried to enable history. Thompson barely dribbled, running and catching and shooting, Stephen Curry — who held the record at 13 3s in a game — recognizing what was going on and shelving his own game.

Thompson went 10-of-14 from deep in the first half, the Warriors demolishing the Bulls, 92-50, at intermission. It was a clean half, the Warriors crushing without a dent, until early in the third, when things got dirty and tricky.

First, physically, with Thompson crashing into Damian Jones and cutting his forehead, which spawned the cartoonishly large headband. And mentally difficult for Kerr, a coach who wanted history but also not to embarrass his opponents.

Thompson’s record-tying trey came with 7:14 in the third. Both teams had to wait a few more minutes for the money ball, coming with 4:55 left, which made it 113-69.

“Klay’s 14th 3 was very uncomfortable,” said Kerr, whose modern-day team entered Thanksgiving Eve at 3-15. “We had a big lead in the late third. He was searching, he was launching. His teammates all wanted him to get it.

“One of those uncomfortable moments as coach where you want your player to get a record, but you don’t want to do the wrong thing karma-wise. It was a little dicey. I texted [Chicago coach] Fred Hoiberg after the game, and he was great. I was relieved when Klay made the last one and we took him out. Just another incredible shooting night from Klay, of which there have been many.”

Kerr remembers the little things from that day — that Alfonzo McKinnie had a career-high 19 points nearby where he grew up. That Thompson surprised him one more time after the game.

“He got the game ball when the game was over and then we had a team dinner afterward,” Kerr said of Thompson, who finished 18-of-29 from the field and 14-of-24 from beyond the arc. “He walked into the team dinner with game ball afterward, which I found interesting.”

 

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