Klay Thompson isn't a household name quite yet, but Golden State's second-year swingman is enjoying a very productive season on the heels of a solid, if not spectacular, rookie campaign. After celebrating his 23rd birthday last week, Thompson, along with teammate Harrison Barnes, will play in the Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star weekend in Houston.
He took a moment to talk with The Huffington Post about his growth as a player, about playing with Stephen Curry and what's next for the Warriors.
What are your impressions of Mark Jackson, and what does he bring to the table as a head coach?
I think he's a great coach. He is very inspirational. He played for so long, he really knows the game. He lets you go out there and play your game. He's a great leader and I love playing for Mark. If you can score and shoot, he really encourages you to shoot. It's been some of the most fun I've ever had playing basketball this year.
Given his success running pick-and-roll as an NBA point guard, how much do you rely on him for guidance in that aspect of your game?
He gives me suggestions. I work on it a lot with Coach [Darren] Erman. I think I can run pick-and-roll. I've been running it a little bit more. It's something I can still keep working on. If I can score without and with it, I think that would make me a lot more versatile. It's something I have to work on this summer. Steph's great at it, so I'm going to try and get on his level.
What does this Warriors team need moving forward to contend in the West?
We have to keep protecting home court. We had a tough road stretch, going 0-4. We can't have anymore nights off if we want to be a contender. We have ton of home games in March.
What's the balance for you personally, alongside Steph Curry, in terms of your playmaking and scoring and everything else that comes with your role?
I kind of just let the game come to me. I don't need the ball to dominate or be effective. I like to play off Steph and David Lee a lot. I can be a catch-and-shoot guy if I have to and come off screens, make a play, make a shot, find a teammate. I also think defensively my job is to make it tough for the opposition's best scorer, and I think I've been doing a better job of that this year.
What's the best part about playing with a lead guard like Steph Curry on a nightly basis?
He just spaces the floor so much. He's a great playmaker too, so when we're both on the court, we really stretch the floor. We both feed off each other. It's a ton of fun, you know, being able to get to the paint, kick it out. Anytime you see Steph wide open, it's pretty much automatic.
What's the next step for you?
I'd say just to improve every month. I feel like each month this year, I've progressed in some area of the game. I'm still young, I need to gain some strength, not just be a shooter, try and get to the free throw line more and try and play better defense. I think I'm just scratching the surface of what I can be. I'm only 107 games into my career.
Specifically about the offseason -- a lot of guys say they will work on one major element of their game. Did that apply to you last summer?
Probably my game off the bounce, you know. Just try to score with one or two bounces. Still need to work on it a lot more. Honestly, last summer, I really focused on defense when I was in Oakland. I think my defense has made major improvements; it's the number one priority.