When players say individual statistics don't matter, they're usually lying. Yes, some accomplished veterans and dedicated role players are secure enough to ignore their numbers, but everybody around the league knows you're judged on your stats and often paid because of them. Just like fans do, most players look at their production and that of their peers.
That said, players also care about winning, and when All-Stars decide to team up, their per-game numbers have to drop. More than any other member of the Golden State Warriors, Klay Thompson might see a significant decline in his stats next season because of Kevin Durant, and he swears he does not care. For Thompson, this is actually believable.
At Team USA practice, on the subject of sacrificing his role on the Warriors, Thompson said: "I know how good I am in this league. I'm not going to judge my performance off numbers or anything. If we get wins, it really doesn't matter, man. It's all good."
"I look at a guy like Manu Ginobili who came off the bench almost his entire career," Thompson said. "Never averaged more than 20 points a game, but he's a four-time champion, you know? He could have easily been on another team and averaged 25 a game, but he sacrificed to win, and that's what I expect to do next year. I don't care about averaging 25 or even 20. I just want to finish it out and get back to the Finals and enjoy that ride."
Thompson said his mindset shifted when he scored five points in the clinching game of the 2015 NBA Finals and Warriors coach Steve Kerr told him no one would remember his scoring numbers down the line, but they would remember the championship. Those were wise words, and you have to wonder if Kerr -- a former San Antonio Spur -- mentioned Ginobili to him, too.
Many prominent players struggle with taking smaller roles and fewer shots, but it doesn't seem like it'll be much of an issue for Thompson. As Strauss pointed out, he has already sacrificed some of his playmaking opportunities because of the emergence of Draymond Green, and he doesn't particularly like attention, anyway.
Beyond Thompson's unselfish personality and his stated desire to win at all costs, there is an even more basic reason why he -- and Golden State in general -- shouldn't have much of a problem sharing the ball: everyone can shoot. Like Ginobili, Thompson can help his team with or without the ball in his hands. He attracts attention simply by standing at the 3-point line, and his cutting and screening away from the ball has been extremely important for the Warriors for years.
Thompson is not a volume scorer who needs a few dribbles to get his rhythm, and neither are any of his teammates. Part of the reason they all love to pass is that they're passing to guys who shoot so well.
At Durant's introductory press conference, Kerr said he thought the superstar would fit in seamlessly. Thompson's comments illustrate why this is possible. When training camp starts, Kerr might have to remind these stars about the dangers of being too unselfish.