Which Warrior will become Golden State's version of Chris Bosh?

ByEthan Sherwood Strauss ESPN logo
Wednesday, July 20, 2016

LAS VEGAS -- Adding Kevin Durant to the Warriors will reduce the roles of Golden State's incumbent stars. Naturally, the question then is who must bears the brunt of that, who must make the most difficult sacrifice on a team that's sure to score so easily?

Put another way: Who will be Golden State's Chris Bosh?

Back in 2010, when Bosh and LeBron James joined Dwyane Wade to form the Miami Heat juggernaut, it was Bosh -- a superstar in his own right -- who saw a transition from franchise player to supporting actor. It was a journey that proved tougher than he imagined.

In 2014, Bosh caused a stir with his words of warning for Kevin Love after the former Minnesota Timberwolves star became the final piece of the Cleveland Cavaliers' Big Three:

"It's going to be very difficult for [Love]. Even if I was in his corner and I was able to tell him what to expect and what to do, it still doesn't make any difference. It's extremely difficult and extremely frustrating. He's going to have to deal with it."

Bosh received criticism for that warning but was validated when Love struggled to grapple with rarely grasping the rock. It's not a natural thing for an All-Star to subsist on the periphery of a championship-level offense.

Among Golden State's now Big Four, Klay Thompson's name keeps coming up when you pose this question to people around the league and inside the Warriors franchise. He's the one who already mostly plays off the ball. He already largely makes do with whatever shots come his way within the flow of the offense.

The emergence of Draymond Green as a facilitator pushed Thompson away from the action, reducing his unassisted opportunities. Thompson received praise for accepting that role when other All-Stars might chafe at being underused. What's great about Klay Thompson is that he's good with being Klay Thompson.

But what happens to Klay when former MVP and four-time scoring champ Kevin Durant is the guy acting as Klay?

What's interesting in this new superteam construction is how Thompson has initially welcomed -- even lobbied for -- this change. Amusingly, in his Hamptons pitch to Durant, Klay mentioned how many open shots he'd get from Durant's presence before sheepishly shifting to how Durant would also benefit from the arrangement. Everyone, including Durant, had a good laugh at the quick pivot to getting back on message.

With Durant's arrival, Thompson is anticipating positive a trade-off: Klay will get fewer shots, but those shots will be blissfully unguarded. When asked if he'd rather have more shots, or get fewer shots that all happened to be wide open, Thompson replied, "Definitely open shots, you know? It's one thing to get shots, but it's easier to be more efficient when you're getting open looks. So I definitely go with the latter."

At Team USA practice, on the subject of sacrificing his role on the Warriors, Thompson said, "I know how good I am in this league. I'm not going to judge my performance off numbers or anything. If we get wins, it really doesn't matter, man. It's all good."

On whether he might get less attention for his exploits, Thompson said, "I feel like I get enough attention, man, [by] showing people how good I am. [Getting less attention] doesn't matter to me."

Thompson has clearly demonstrated that he cares not for attention. He's the rare NBA player who tries to quickly escape interviews after his biggest scoring performances. As Golden State's PR czar Raymond Ridder frequently says of Thompson, "If he never did another interview again, he'd be happy."

Though there are certain trappings of NBA life Thompson enjoys, fame itself rankles. He finds it annoying when, say, TMZ breathlessly covers him leaving a scene with multiple women.

"One of those girls was my cousin, man," Thompson said before a game in Atlanta, with typical shrugging exasperation.

If this new situation further obscures his impact to prying eyes, so much the better. Thompson prefers his universe reduced down to some combination of "basketball, dog, and occasional fun."

He might actually mean it when stating the hoary NBA cliché that his primary motivation is, "Just to get rings, man."

When asked in Vegas of the memories that fuel him, Thompson said, "I felt that feeling of winning before and I was so close again. The pain of losing is way worse than that of winning. So I just want to keep winning, man. And we're set up hopefully not just for this year but for years after to do it and that's what really motivates me."

That isn't to say that Thompson is averse to leaving a legacy. He just feels he's accomplished enough individually to prioritize collective accomplishments.

On when his priorities shifted, Thompson explained, "It was last year in the Finals. I had a game where I had five points and we still won. No one ever talks about that to me at least. They just talk about how great a year we had. Steve Kerr helped me a lot with that. He said, 'Klay, it doesn't matter how many points you're going to score. No one's going to remember 20 years down the line what you did in Game 3, 4, 5 unless it was something crazy. But they'll remember that team that brought that Bay Area championship back for the first time in 40 years."

On this new venture, Klay isn't thinking about Chris Bosh, but instead at someone who played the same position.

"I look at a guy like Manu Ginobili who came off the bench almost his entire career," Thompson began. "Never averaged more than 20 points a game, but he's a four-time champion, you know? He could have easily been on another team and averaged 25 a game but he sacrificed to win and that's what I expect to do next year. I don't care about averaging 25 or even 20. I just want to finish it out and get back to the Finals and enjoy that ride."

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