Kawakami: Inside Warriors’ Paul George bid fails, Klay Thompson’s departure inevitable

There’s no need to wait for years of documentaries and context to settle this: Saturday night’s events will be a threshold offseason moment on the threshold of a remarkable piece of Golden State Warriors history.

Preliminary Analysis: Not good so far! (But check back in a week or so for the final verdict.)

Klay Thompson is set for free agency and — barring a dramatic change of heart — the Warriors and Thompson are poised for an imminent departure from the Bay Area. So prepared, an NBA source indicated that some warm goodbyes were shared between Clay and top members of the Warriors organization this weekend.

Paul George, the Warriors’ home run target to acquire this offseason, voided the final year of his contract with the LA Clippers and became an unrestricted free agent, cutting off any realistic path for the Warriors. Room to sign him as a free agent.

That was after very intense negotiations between the Warriors, George and the Clippers leading up to George’s contract deadline Saturday afternoon and after the Warriors believed — several times — they were on the verge of landing the 34-year-old small forward. , team sources said.

The Warriors agreed to give George a maximum four-year extension upon arrival. They believed they proposed several variations of a trade that the Clippers could and would accept. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green were 100 percent on board. George gave strong indications that he wanted to join the warriors. But the Clippers didn’t agree to any version of the trade, and now George is a free agent and essentially off the Warriors’ reach.

Before free agency begins on Sunday, it has a lot to go down. The current big-board count is that the Warriors are going to lose one of their three dynasty players and one of the most popular athletes in Bay Area history, and they don’t have the best two-way division going on. We’ve left Andrew Wiggins hanging with others in trade talks, and they now have to decide whether to guarantee Chris Paul’s $30 million contract for next season and figure out if they can move it in a trade.

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No net profit. A fundamental loss. There is much more to do. And all that is at stake is the final phase of Curry’s prime.

The Warriors have no room to sign Paul George, seen here with Luka Doncic, as a free agent. (Jerome Miron/USA Today)

Here’s a point-by-point look at what happened over the last few days and how it sets up what the Warriors will try to do next:

• A potential PG13 trade between the Warriors and Clippers was always going to be complicated, but Warriors executives thought they could solve the puzzle. From what I’ve heard, some combination of Wiggins, CP3, Jonathan Cuminga or Moses Moody and a future first-round pick have been discussed with the Clippers (but not definitely).

There were versions that limited the Clippers’ long-term monetary liability; There were versions that increased future benefits. The Warriors wouldn’t have put Wiggins and Kuminga together in any offer, but I’m told it didn’t come that far. If that would have sealed the deal…who knows.

My understanding is that money concerns weigh heavily on the Clippers’ side. If PG13 leaves as a free agent, they get nothing back…but they get off the second apron and have more roster maneuverability.

• If the Warriors had added Kuminga to George in a package, that would have been risky. The Warriors would have given up their most valuable young player for an injury-plagued aging player and would have to pay more than $260 million over the next five years, putting the Warriors under the luxury tax.

But PG13 would have been an immediate and elite 1B scoring option next to Curry, far better than anyone the Warriors have had in that role over the years, and he could have drawn tougher perimeter defensive assignments. Who will now step into those shoes for the Warriors? Maybe get some gummy. Maybe cover. Maybe Brandin Podziemski too. It’s all a job. The Boston Celtics proved once again that playoff series are won by tough, two-way wings, and the Warriors are still sorely needed in that regard. That’s why they tried so hard for George.

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• There will be time later for many more full ruminations on Thompson’s incredible legacy with the Warriors, and he deserves every one. Game 6 in Oklahoma City deserves 100. Back to shooting free throws – and back to defense! – After he tore his ACL in the 2019 finals, he needs to get a thousand more memorabilia.

In retrospect, I note that many of his actions and emotions over the last few months of last season could have been signals that he was ready to move on from his repeated press conference moments to his struggles to transition. As he walked around the locker room yesterday evening after the final regular-season game at Chase Center, he asked his teammates to take a boat ride with him.

CP3 and Moody pick him upIt was obviously an honor to ride that boat with Thompson, I thought, because they knew what they did that night was important to him.

• Thompson didn’t like his experience last season, he said. Many times. He did not want to move to the bench for a few games behind Podziemski. He didn’t like our questions about his future. He disliked the national spotlight on his occasional struggles, including an 0-for-10 shooting night in a play-in loss to the Sacramento Kings. He In fact Don’t want the Warriors to prioritize figuring out how to improve the roster over bringing him back this offseason.

Mostly, I think Thompson doesn’t want to compare himself to another era, when before his two major leg injuries, he could guard anyone and make any game a unique piece of NBA shooting history. He wanted a fresh start. He’s going to get one. He’s going to the Chase Center with his new team and wants to beat the Warriors; Maybe not bittersweet, maybe a little bittersweet, but fun to watch.

• If Thompson stays with the Warriors this season, he won’t be a starter. It’s going to be Podziemski. or lid. Or someone else. I’m not sure Thompson wanted to do that again, and I’m guessing the Warriors probably didn’t either. It seems like a cold end to this incredible tenure, but it was inevitable.

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The Warriors wouldn’t be as good without Thompson. They will miss his shooting, his personality, his bad humor and all. There will be a statue of him outside the arena. He will always be warmly welcomed wherever Warriors fans are. Yes, the Warriors will miss him. But, with Thompson’s approval, they’re going to get something in a sign-and-trade deal when he leaves, and they probably won’t be too bad for it. They tend to be young and athletic.

Let’s see what else we can add next week.

• The Warriors could use the CP3 contract as a version of the trade exception — they could negotiate with Paul to guarantee any amount both sides could agree on and use it to balance the trade.

If the Warriors can’t find a trade, they could release CP3, get under the aprons and luxury line and maybe even under the cap line (depending on what kind of money they get back in a potential Thompson signing and trade). They can see what else the Wiggins can get. As it stands, they will have a $5.2 million taxpayer midlevel exemption and if they move the Wiggins and receive much less money in return, $12.9 million in non-taxpayer midlevel access.

• To close this out, I’ll use one more Thompson quote from the season finale news conference. Thompson’s reaction was asked how much Curry, Draymond and Steve Kerr wanted him back. Again, Thompson said these words back in April, but they feel even more relevant now.

“It means a lot,” Thompson said. “I mean, we’ve been through the highs and the lows. Whether it’s losing a championship, winning a championship, missing the playoffs, we’ve been through it all together, so that means a lot. The times I’ve had with them make me grateful. It’s pretty historic stuff.

Yes, it was. Now is the past.

(Top photo of Klay Thompson: Rocky Whitener / NBAE via Getty Images)

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