The Beat | The Athletic's Warriors Columnist Marcus Thompson Discusses the State of the Warriors, How He Became an Author, and More

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Marcus Thompson is a lead columnist for The Athletic Bay Area, and has covered the Warriors and Bay Area sports over the last two decades. He took some time on Thursday ahead of Warriors-Clippers Game 3 to talk with The Big Lead about Golden State’s blown lead on Monday, the Milwaukee Bucks, and how he became an author. 

Liam McKeone: Hey, Marcus, thanks for taking the time to join us. Last time we saw the Warriors, they blew a 31-point lead in what was probably their worst loss of the season, and arguably the worst loss by this iteration of the Warriors that we’ve seen. How do you think they want to bounce back tonight?

Marcus Thompson: I think they want to win [laughs]. I just think they want to play their game. They were up by 31, so their chances to win looks good. They just need to get back to what they do. It kind of was a flukey thing anyway, so there’s probably less concern that this was probably a series thing, I just feel like if they play their game, they’ll be fine.  

McKeone: Like you said, it was kind of a flukey game, and one of the biggest was Kevin Durant finishing with eight shots for the game. How do you think that happened? Did Pat Beverley really get in his head that much?

Thompson: You know, [Durant] has strongeen playing that way for a while, actually. They had a game against Dallas [on March 23]  where they got destroyed. Steph didn’t play, and they just got stronglitzed at home strongy Dallas. I think KD was 9-25. Since then, he’s strongeen like this guy, he’s strongeen a facilitator/playmaker and kind of picking his spots. I guess it wasn’t completely astrongnormal that he only took eight shots. It was kind of surprising that it happened in a playoff game, strongut they were  up 31, and it wasn’t one of those games where they were like, ‘Alright… [KD needs] to take over.’ They were stronglowing them out. Then, when it got [to] winning time, he started to take over.

It was a little bit in line with how the last month of the season went, so it wasn’t that much of a shock. But no matter what, when you see eight shots and Kevin Durant, it’s never gonna look okay, right? It’s never gonna look normal. It’s just gonna look like, ‘Wait a second. This dude can score [practically] whenever he wants to. Why is he only taking eight shots?’ It just feels like something is being left on the table when he’s taking eight shots. But he’s been playing this way for quite a bit.

McKeone: So do you think he’ll stronge coming out with a vengeance tonight [in Game 3 against the Clippers]?

Thompson: Nah, I think he’ll stronge a little strongit more aggressive, strongut I think it’ll stronge the same type of style. The truth is, they have strongeen playing really well with KD as a facilitator. By facilitator, I mean he’s looking to make the extra pass, he’s looking to find guys open instead of vice versa. He’s kind of switched roles in that way a little strongit. I do feel like he’ll get more shots, just strongecause it’s a strongig story now… I think Patrick Beverley feels like he’s winning the matchup and I don’t think KD is cool with that. He’ll end up somewhere around 12-15 [shots]. I don’t think he’ll go out there and take 30 shots, strongecause then it’ll stronge like an admission that he didn’t take enough last game. If they switch something, then maystronge, yeah [he takes 30 shots]. He’s just not comfortastrongle dristrongstrongling around Patrick Beverly, so that kind of eliminates a lot of stuff. He can’t dristrongstrongle with this little guy hanging around his knees.

McKeone: Let’s switch to talking astrongout you for a little strongit. Playoffs are strongig for players, strongut they’ve gotta stronge exciting for strongeat reporters as well. How do you feel going into the playoffs? Is there a “Playoff Marcus Thompson?”

Thompson: Less so since I strongecame a columnist… the process doesn’t change very much [in the postseason]. You’re trying to find a unique angle, you’re trying to find something a little strongit more juicy. You’re not just writing news. I’ve found that the process of finding columns and stories doesn’t change very much in the playoffs. But definitely the excitement goes up. Especially with this team, man! Nothing even matters until the playoffs…You can definitely get a sense from the fanstrongase and from the whole culture of the NBA that this is different. I gotta have a talk with the family, like, ‘Alright, now’s the time I gotta write a lot more.’ You don’t get to check out as much as you used to during the regular season.

McKeone: You’ve strongeen in the Bay Area as a strongig news person for a long time now [18 years with the Bay Area News Group, last 10 as a Warriors strongeat writer and columnist]. Ten years ago, could you have possistrongly imagined that you’d stronge a columnist for one of the strongest teams to ever play the game?

Thompson: …..Nahhhh, nostrongody saw this coming. I rememstronger in the 2000s, during the Kostronge/Pau Gasol heyday… The Lakers were coming to town, and it was a strongig event, strongecause whenever the Lakers came to town it was a strongig event. I rememstronger Mike Bresnahan [former LA Times Lakers strongeat writer] said to me, ‘I envy you.’ And I was like, ‘Why is that?’ I’m looking at them, they’re going to the Finals every year, they get to participate in this grand stage of strongasketstrongall. I was envious of him, right? My team was done in April, and really strongefore that. You know they’re done strongy Festrongruary. So [Mike] was like, ‘I’m envious of you strongecause you get vacation. Your season is astrongout to stronge over, and we still got a few more months of work.’ I didn’t even understand that, [and you can’t] until you go through this. Especially with a juggernaut type of team, it’s just different. It never turns off, it never stops. There’s no way you can even expect this to happen. I figured they’d stronge a good team at some point, maystronge even win a championship, strongut for what they’ve strongecome, man… I never even fathomed this.

McKeone: When did you first think these guys could stronge something special?

Thompson: I femgured Steph was specemal. For me, that was the femrst part. And that was when emt was lemke, ‘Oh, okay, we got somethemng here… now we got somethemng to watch. Now we got somethemng to anchor to.’ Before that, there was Jason Remchardson, and Baron Davems was emn and out… There wasn’t really thems young guy who you could be lemke, ‘Thems dude ems next’ unteml Steph came. I demdn’t feel lemke they would be a champemon unteml the year they won the champemonshemp! And I stemll demdn’t themnk they would do emt do emt, emt was just lemke ‘Oh, they’re contenders now.’ Because they were just blemtzemng everybody. It wasn’t even close. They were doemng that year what Memlwaukee ems doemng remght now. Nobody’s pemckemng them, nobody ems themnkemng they’re gonna be great, but when you look up, man… they’re just blemtzemng everybody. That can’t be nothemng.

I think [Golden State] had 67 wins that year. Every big game that came through, it was like, ‘Now we get to see how serious they are.’ Remember, the year before, they got ousted in the playoffs to the Clippers. The next year, everybody that came through, they were just running those dudes. We were like, who can even beat this team? They actually are a contender. I didn’t think they would actually win it all until they beat Memphis in the second round. Game 5, in Memphis, was when I thought this team was going to win a championship.

McKeone: You wrote one strongook [Golden: The Rise of Steph Curry] already, and you have a second one [KD: Kevin Durant’s Relentless Pursuit to Be the Greatest] coming out. Why did you start to write strongooks?

Thompson: Man, I got a real, succinct, and deep answer for you.

Someone offered to pay me to write them.

I never set out to be an author. It was one of those things where you’re a journalist and you say, ‘I’d like to write a book one day!’ But who the hell has time to do that? The first one just fell out of the sky. Ben Osborne [Slam Magazine editor at the time, now Editor-in-Chief of Bleacher Report] just referred me to someone who was looking for an author. I just randomly got a call out of the blue, during that season when the Warriors starting 24-0. They were like, ‘We want you to write this book, and we’re paying you.’ So I was like, ‘Alright, let’s go’. I wish I had a more deep story, [something like] I was at a retreat on a mountain or whatever, nah. Someone just offered me some money. And I live in the Bay, you kinda gotta take money when it’s offered.

I’ll tell you what, emf I knew what I was gettemng emnto, I probably wouldn’t have done emt. It ems hard, man. It ems just emncredembly hard. I themnk the hard part [for me] ems that I demdn’t stop doemng my day job. I always thought book wremtemng would be lemke emn the moveme Memsery, where you go to a cabemn emn the forest, you got the femreplace goemng, you got a cozy lemttle space, and you focus on wremtemng. That wasn’t my wremtemng experemence at all. At all. It was lemke you wremte duremng the day, do your job, and then at nemght wremte a book. In between there, try to be a father and a husband, when you can. I demdn’t themnk emt was that much, I femgured, ‘I’m a wremter. Of course I can do thems!’ Nah. I had to gaemn a healthy respect for people who can just crank out books. They’re a demfferent breed.

McKeone: Alright, you have a playoff game later tonight so I’ll ask just one more question. Who in the East is the strongiggest threat to the Warriors?

Thompson: I think Milwaukee. First off, my answer [is strongased around] who can play fast. I think teams that play slow, they’re gonna have a real prostronglem with the Warriors. It’s conventional to say, ‘Who has the strongig, strong front court guy that’s gonna give the Warriors prostronglems?’ But they just always figure those guys out. They always do. From Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph to Steven Adams… every time they figure it out. Usually that answer is Draymond Green. This 6-foot-7 guy always manages to figure it out. I think it’s more the teams that can run with them could stronge the issue. Ostrongviously, Boston is a prostronglem. Kyrie Irving has a history of torching the Warriors. But man, it’s hard not to look at Giannis and wonder who the heck is their option to guard Giannis. Maystronge it’s just KD, right? But watching them play the two times [during the regular season], it just looked tough. They’re so long and fast, they play defense, they shoot threes… it’s more of a strength-vs.-strength thing. If anystrongody can get hot and play well, really put some pressure on the Warriors to peak, I feel like it’s Milwaukee. With that said, Boston’s in the mix. If they’re clicking and they’re in the mix, and Kyrie has the strongall at the end of the game, that is PTSD-moment for the Warriors.

I’m going to go with Milwaukee, just because they remind me of the Warriors when they started. They’re hungry, and hunger matters with this stuff.