Klay Thomp­son adds med­i­ta­tion to his mental prepa­ra­tion

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KLAY Thomp­son craved a lit­tle calm.

The Golden State guard needed some­thing more to bal­ance out his bas­ket­ball rou­tine, so he added med­i­ta­tion to help him get cen­tered be­fore games and bet­ter deal with the pres­sures of NBA life. Flip on some clas­si­cal mu­sic or na­ture sounds and he’s ready to re­lax his mind.

It takes con­sis­tent prac­tice, just like that pretty jumper.

“I try to go 30 min­utes,” said Thomp­son, who is joined for some ses­sions by bull­dog bestie, Rocco. “It’s hard. It’s very hard. An hour would be nice, but you’ve got to work up to that.”

Thomp­son is in a good place right now, go­ing to a fifth straight NBA Fi­nals and chasing a three-peat with the Golden State War­riors.

Two-time reign­ing Fi­nals MVP Kevin Du­rant sat out in­jured for the en­tire Western Con­fer­ence fi­nals, leav­ing Thomp­son and Splash Brother Stephen Curry to take on an even greater load on both ends.

Thomp­son heads into Game 1 at Toronto on Thurs­day night av­er­ag­ing 19.1 points these play­offs, hav­ing scored 22.6 points per game in the five con­tests with­out Du­rant.

Mental prepa­ra­tion off the court is a ma­jor rea­son Thomp­son no longer lets things fester or bring him down, such as a tough loss or bad out­ing. He has said that ear­lier in his ca­reer it was hard to let go after games.

Now, he in­stead shrugs off a poor shooting per­for­mance with the sim­ple no­tion of, “That’s the way the bas­ket­ball gods can be.” Then, it’s back to work.

Left off the ALL-NBA team? “Oh, I didn’t?” he replied when told he hadn’t made the cut.

Thomp­son did al­low him­self a lit­tle eye roll in dis­be­lief, be­fore adding: “It is what it is. I can’t con­trol it. Do I think there’s that many guards bet­ter than me in the league? No, but that’s the rea­son why we’re still play­ing. So, I don’t even want to get into it, hon­estly.”

The more me­dia shy, un­der-the-radar of Golden State’s sen­sa­tional back­court — Curry is a two-time MVP — a slump­ing Thomp­son once held his hand up near his face and ut­tered “I missed you” when he fi­nally got on a roll again at Port­land on Dec. 29.

He cred­its med­i­ta­tion in part for how far he has come in han­dling ev­ery­thing as he wraps up his eighth NBA sea­son.

Thomp­son added med­i­ta­tion and visu­al­iza­tion into his rou­tine the last cou­ple of years. This is the typ­i­cally stoic guard who plunged into the Pa­cific Ocean in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia be­fore Game 4 of the first round against the Clip­pers fol­low­ing a per­for­mance that wasn’t up to his “stan­dards.” He went out and scored 32 after that with six 3-point­ers, hit­ting his first seven shots.

“The mind’s so pow­er­ful. Just try to train the mind to deal with ad­ver­sity in sit­u­a­tions that are un­pleas­ant but make you bet­ter in the long run, that’s what I try to do,” Thomp­son said when asked how he got in­volved med­i­ta­tion. “Just a lot of read­ing on the in­ter­net and learn­ing from coach (Steve) Kerr. Learned from Tony Robbins, too. It was cool talk­ing to him last year. He had a great out­look on things. Just from vet­eran play­ers. David West taught me a lot about that side of the game, the mental part.”

Team­mate Shaun Liv­ingston can pic­ture Thomp­son in a mo­ment of com­plete seren­ity and peace — “100 per­cent, noth­ing would sur­prise me.”

Dr. Michael Gervais, a high-per­for­mance psy­chol­o­gist who has worked closely with the Seat­tle Sea­hawks, NBA play­ers, USA Vol­ley­ball and other Olympic ath­letes, ap­plauds Thomp­son tak­ing up med­i­ta­tion on his own.

“So of­ten we hold up world-lead­ing ath­letes on a pedestal for their phys­i­cal abil­i­ties, miss­ing the deeper and ex­traor­di­nary com­mit­ment they make to­ward pur­su­ing their po­ten­tial,” Gervais said. “There are only three things we can train as humans: our craft, our bod­ies, and our mind. World-class ath­letes don’t leave any of those up to chance — why should the rest of us?”

When he had a cou­ple of days off after the War­riors wrapped up the Western Con­fer­ence fi­nals, Thomp­son noted, “I wish it was sunny” be­fore adding, “A lit­tle over­cast, but it’s all good.”

Sure is.

Thomp­son found out in April he will have his col­lege jersey re­tired by Wash­ing­ton State, too.

“Klay is al­ways some­one who ev­ery­body sort of mar­vels at his life, the sim­plic­ity of his life. He just needs a bas­ket­ball and his dog, and that’s it. And we all laugh about it,” Kerr said. “But Klay is a lot deeper than peo­ple re­al­ize, so it doesn’t sur­prise me that he’s med­i­tat­ing and he’s found ways to calm him­self be­fore games and keep him­self go­ing dur­ing the sea­son.”

The 29-year-old Thomp­son takes time the night be­fore a game to think ahead. It doesn’t mat­ter if he’s in the drive­way or hang­ing out in his back­yard with beloved Rocco — “just ran­dom,” he said.

Some­times he en­vi­sions each shot from a given spot on the floor that could present it­self over the course of a game.

“An­dre Iguo­dala told me that Tiger Woods vi­su­al­izes ev­ery sin­gle shot he shoots on 18 holes on the golf course, so if he can do that, that’s in­cred­i­ble,” Thomp­son said. “That’s so many golf swings. I try to do the same ap­proach to bas­ket­ball. I just try to visualize, get in my spots, what my op­po­nent is go­ing to do. Yeah, so when you come to the game, you’ve kind of seen it be­fore.”

He might go with some Mozart or Beethoven.

“Try to put on clas­si­cal Pan­dora or some na­ture sounds. Can’t lis­ten to rap or hip-hop when I do it be­cause then I just get dis­tracted. Some­thing pleas­ant in the back­ground, it’s nice,” Thomp­son ex­plained. “It’s a chal­lenge. It’s much harder than work­ing out. Es­pe­cially for me, I’ve got like my mind rac­ing. So it’s a good prac­tice for me.”

Kerr con­sid­ers Thomp­son one of the most down-to-earth NBA su­per­stars.

“He’s a dream to coach. He’s zero main­te­nance,” Kerr said. “But he’ll sur­prise you with his depth. You may not think there’s a whole lot there, but there’s plenty there, he just sort of doesn’t let you in on it very of­ten.”

Thomp­son knows it’s not a per­fect sci­ence to get his shot back on track after a poor out­ing. The med­i­ta­tion pro­vides a fo­cus.

“I still will have bad days once in a while, but that’s just be­ing hu­man,” Thomp­son said. “It’s some­thing I’ve in­cor­po­rated in my rou­tine for at least the past sea­son, es­pe­cially when I was go­ing through that shooting slump. That re­ally helped me. It’s just nice to man­i­fest things. Kind of like speak into ex­is­tence, just kind of think it into ex­is­tence.”/ AP


GOLDEN State War­riors guard Klay Thomp­son hugs for­ward Jonas Jere­bko at the end of Game 4 of the NBA bas­ket­ball play­offs Western Con­fer­ence fi­nals against the Port­land Trail Blaz­ers Mon­day, May 20, 2019, in Port­land, Ore. The War­riors won 119-117 in over­time.

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