OAKLAND (CBS/AP) – Klay Thompson has felt a little bit more like Golden State’s team manager lately than a first-round pick.
This is hardly how the determined rookie expected his early days in the NBA to go: observing from the sidelines as his teammates work under new Warriors coach Mark Jackson.
But he didn’t sign his contract until Tuesday as the franchise protected some salary-cap room to pursue free agents. On Tuesday, the Warriors agreed to terms with former Bobcats center Kwame Brown on a one-year, $7 million deal, according to his agent.
About all Thompson has been allowed to do is rebound for his teammates during shooting drills—he couldn’t participate in practice.
“I can watch, rebound for the players. I feel like a manager again,” Thompson said with a smile.
Thompson, second-round pick Jeremy Tyler, who also signed Tuesday, and several others have been left to learn as much as they can without being on the court in a formal practice setting. They typically did conditioning and lifted weights on their own in the morning, attended practice, then returned to the team’s facility for a few hours at night to work on offensive and defensive sets and get in some extra shooting.
“It’s really painful because you want to compete and you want to stay up to date on everything that’s going down in practice,” said Thompson, the Warriors’ 11th overall pick out of Washington State.
“We get a second workout in, do some conditioning, do some drills to get in shape. With a compressed season it’s all going to come real fast. There’s going to be no slack for rookies, so we’ve got to be ready.”
Jackson appreciates the initiative taken by the rookies. He understands it’s not an ideal situation, especially for young players who need all the court time they can get during a regular training camp—let alone a condensed schedule.
Golden State’s first exhibition game is Saturday at home against Sacramento.
“That says a lot as to their willingness to learn, their commitment to want to be around here. That goes hand in hand with the culture change,” Jackson said.
Thompson, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard with great range and versatility, has decided not to let the delay in getting on the practice floor affect him. After all, he waited through the months-long NBA lockout.
“They keep me updated. It’s out of my hands, so I’m just keeping a good attitude about it,” Thompson said. “That’s the best thing you can do.”
Jackson has already told Thompson and the other rookies there will be ample opportunities to play right away as long as they play defense.
A pure scorer, Thompson will focus his efforts on improving himself on the other end. He averaged a Pac-10 best 21.6 points—
11th in the nation—last season as a junior at Washington State and also 5.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists. Thompson also can play small forward.
For now, he is doing his best to be supportive of the Warriors’ efforts to bolster the roster.
“I feel like it’s in the best interest of the team to go out there and try to find a player. I’m just being patient with it,” Thompson said. “I waited four or five months for this opportunity with the lockout.”
Tyler provided a message for the players sitting out—to learn all they can during this time, because soon they’ll be going full speed.
“It’s not good that we’re sitting out, but you don’t look at it as the most negative thing in the world,” Tyler said. “Just take every positive out of it.”
Warriors owner Joe Lacob has already announced he has big plans for Thompson in his rookie season, predicting he will be in the running for Rookie of the Year.
That meant a lot to Thompson, who knows the entire front office supports him. And he believes he can do it, too.
“Hearing that gives me a great sense of confidence. That means they have my back and I really appreciate that they feel that way and hopefully I won’t disappoint,” Thompson said. “That’s why I’m putting in all this extra work. I’m really humbled they would make a statement like that. … I’m excited. I think I have the perfect opportunity to win that award and that’s my ultimate goal for the season, individual goal that is.”
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