OAKLAND — A fight broke out at Oracle Arena on Friday night. An honest-to-goodness fight between NBA players on the basketball court. The Warriors’ Draymond Green and the Wizards’ Bradley Beal wound up in an unfriendly bear hug 19 seconds before halftime, and when they tumbled to the court and teammates rushed to the fray, it was chaos.
The fans were on their feet. They screamed in anger, or bloodlust, or at least surprise. But all I could think of was: “Get Klay out of there! Keep him safe!”
Sports writers generally love their jobs, despite our dispositions. But the one bittersweet note in the whole affair, many will tell you, is that we no longer cheer as fans. Objectivity and all that. And here’s the weird part: The metamorphosis comes easily. When you cover a team, even if it’s the team you loved with all your heart when you were 10 years old, it’s chilling how quickly you find yourself able to critique it with cold detachment.
So it was weird Friday night at Oracle Arena when I found myself openly rooting for Klay Thompson, the Warriors’ shooting guard. But I make no apologies.
In the wake of the fires that ravaged our hills, Thompson selected three successive home games — Wednesday against the Raptors, Friday against the Wizards, Sunday against the Pistons — and pledged to donate $1,000 for every point he scored in those contests. The money is earmarked for Redwood Credit Union’s North Bay Fire Relief Fund, and RCU has promised to pass along every cent of it to fire victims and relief efforts.
Thompson has encouraged others to join his charity through the PledgeIt site, and they have responded in droves. The original goal was $250,000. The final tally will depend upon both Thompson’s scoring output and the number of joiners he has attracted. But by Friday night, the estimated total (based on a projection of 22 points per game by the All-Star shooter) had exceeded $290,000.
And I’m here for it.
I live in Napa. And so like so many other people in Sonoma and Napa counties, I spent more than a week surrounded by smoke, but ultimately sacrificed nothing beyond sleep and air quality. And yet I look around and see so much misery, so much uncertainty, so much vulnerability among my neighbors. I want to see them made whole again. And efforts like Redwood Credit Union’s are a credible first step.
So sitting in Oracle on Friday night, I hoped Klay Thompson would bankrupt himself. I wanted him to splash 3-pointers and bank runners off the glass and repeatedly get to the foul line. I wanted one of those electric Klay Games, like the time he scored 60 points in 29 minutes against the Pacers. Or the time he riddled the Kings for an NBA-record 37 points in a single quarter. Or the night he almost single-handedly saved the Warriors from playoff elimination with 41 points against the Thunder.
The Warriors as a team? Whatever. They’ll be rolling along by the time the playoffs start in April. An October game against Washington means little in the big picture. And I didn’t care if Thompson passed the ball or played a lick of defense. I just wanted him to score, score, score.
Thompson, as goofily likable as any athlete you’ll encounter, does not love talking to the media, at least not in formal settings. But he was patient when he addressed reporters at a Warriors practice Thursday, and again when he sat down with me to follow up after a Friday-morning shootaround. This subject clearly has taken on great meaning for him.