Did Mavs find the missing piece? | The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

DALLAS — Klay Thompson remembers telling Luka Doncic he thought the Dallas superstar was on a path to greatness after Golden State beat the Mavericks in the Western Conference finals two years ago.

Now that Thompson has left the only NBA team he has known in 13 years to join Doncic and Kyrie Irving in Texas, he’s ready to celebrate with, rather than console, the 25-year-old sensation.

“He was real gracious in defeat,” Thompson said of Doncic on Tuesday during his introductory news conference with the Mavericks. “I just appreciate someone who is not afraid of the moment and competes till the end. Luka fits that bill. I think we’ll be able to bring the best out of each other.”

The Warriors went on to win the last of their four championships with Thompson and Stephen Curry in 2022.

Two years later, an admittedly difficult season for Thompson ended with his scoreless, 0-for-10 showing in a loss to Sacramento in the play-in tournament.

He suspected that might be the end of his time with the team that drafted him 11th overall in 2011. And Thompson disappointed his dad, Los Angeles Lakers player-turned-broadcaster Mychal Thompson, by picking Doncic and Irving over LeBron James and Anthony Davis in free agency.

Watching the Mavericks lose to Boston in five games in the NBA Finals had plenty to do with the decision.

“I was watching just as a basketball fan, and I did see, like, ‘Man, I could really help this team. They’re right there,’ ” Thompson said. “Not big adjustments, but just very little adjustments from getting over the top. We’re knocking on the door, and that’s what really got me excited to be here.”

Thompson joined the Mavericks in a sign-and-trade deal involving six teams and a three-year, $50 million contract for the 34-year-old, a five-time All-Star.

Dallas also added free agent forward Naji Marshall on a three-year, $27 million deal and acquired Quentin Grimes from Detroit in a trade that sent Tim Hardaway Jr. and three second-round picks to the Pistons.

Marshall and Grimes were already on board when they got news of the Thompson deal.

“I told everybody, ‘I’m about to get a ring,’ ” said Grimes, who was born and raised in the Houston area. “One of the best shooters of all time, for me as a shooter coming in, I’m going to learn from him every day. We’ve got a good group of guys, and when we got Klay, I’m like, ‘The sky’s the limit.’ “

Thompson has had two full seasons since knee and Achilles injuries that sidelined him for 2 1/2 seasons. He is coming off his lowest scoring average in 11 years (17.9 points per game), and Thompson basically matched his career worst by shooting 38.7% from three-point range.

Although Thompson came off the bench just 14 times in 77 games last season, he hadn’t done that since his rookie year. This helps explain why Curry, among several fond farewells for his longtime “Splash Brother,” said he hoped more than anything that Thompson could find joy in the game again.

“There was times last year it was tough, where it wasn’t as joyful as it had it been in the past,” Thompson said. “It’s nice to kind of shed that and have a whole new fresh start, whole new group of guys to get to know. A whole new city. It’s really cool. And I’m going to embrace the heck out of this opportunity.”

Thompson said one of the first players to reach out was Irving, whose career has been rejuvenated in Dallas. They entered the league together in 2011 — Irving was the No. 1 overall pick by Cleveland — and faced each other three consecutive years in the NBA Finals.

While the friendship with Irving helps, two trips at least to the West finals in three years is a big part of the reason Dallas landed a big name in free agency after years of disappointment.

“Everyone wants to be a part of a winner,” said assistant general manager Michael Finley, a former Mavericks star who has been in the front office for a decade. “In the past, Dallas has had some winning teams, but we just couldn’t get over the hump of being a consistent winner. Winning is very easy to sell to athletes nowadays.”

Thompson knows winning, and believes he has plenty left to take Doncic where retired Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki finally went in the 13th of his 21 Dallas seasons, an NBA record for a career spent entirely in one city. That would be the top of the NBA mountain.

“At this point in my career, still can’t leave me open. I can guard, and I’m just excited,” said Thompson, a 41.3% three-point shooter who is sixth all-time in made threes. “I know I can help this team, whether it’s the knowledge I’ve gained, or big, big scoring nights. I just still know I can be a very, very good player in this league.”

Now, Thompson is paired with one of the NBA’s best young players.

    Naji Marshall, left, responds to a question as Quentin Grimes, right, looks on during an NBA basketball news conference where the duo and Klay Thompson were introduced as the team’s latest acquistions at the team’s practice facility in Dallas, Tuesday, July 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
  photo  Michael Finley, left, Dallas Mavericks Vice President of Basketball Operations & Assistant General Manager, stands by the team’s newest additions, Klay Thompson (31), Naji Marshall (13) and Quentin Grimes (5) during an NBA basketball news conference at the team’s practice facility in Dallas, Tuesday, July 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
  photo  Klay Thompson poses with his jersey after an NBA news conference at the Dallas Mavericks basketball team’s practice facility in Dallas, Tuesday, July 9, 2024.(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
  photo  Naji Marshall smiles as he reponds to questions during an NBA basketball news conference at the team’s practice facility in Dallas, Tuesday, July 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
  photo  Quentin Grimes responds to questions during an NBA basketball news conference at the Dallas Mavericks practice facility in Dallas, Tuesday, July 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

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