There was an open seat in Section 106 amid the sellout crowd at Staples Center. Row 10, Seat 14.
It belonged to Mychal Thompson for Game 2 of the Clippers-Golden State Warriors playoff series. He wasn’t sitting in it.
One of the Lakers’ radio voices, Thompson is better recognized these days as the father of Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson.
He doesn’t see his son play often in person and he didn’t want to sit for Monday’s game. Too nervous.
The elder Thompson carved out some standing room near the tunnel by the Warriors’ bench.
“It’s pure torture to watch your son play in these kind of games. You want him to do so well and you agonize with every mistake, every missed shot,” Thompson said. “I’d much rather be playing than watching. A thousand times more. It’s totally out of my control.”
This is something different for Thompson, a former Lakers player toward the end of the Showtime era. He’s usually slapping on headsets this time of year as color commentator for the team’s radio broadcasts, of which he’s done more than a thousand. But the Lakers aren’t getting out of April after finishing 27-55.
Even though he co-hosts a sports-talk radio show, he misses his Lakers job. “Right now I’m going through withdrawals because we’re not part of ‘it,’” Thompson said.
Mychal misses many of Klay’s games because of their rarely intersecting schedules.
“We live in a world with so much technology, so a simple text message after the game, he relays his thoughts through those,” Klay said.
Those thoughts are many, no? Mychal is passionate on the radio, verbose and opinionated to say the least. Surely he talks basketball nonstop with Klay.
“Not as much as you’d think,” Klay said. “I can tell he’s pretty happy. He doesn’t really wear it on his sleeve if he’s frustrated. A couple suggestions here and there.”
It’s by design.
“He’s got a great coaching staff so he doesn’t need me to interfere as far as the basketball’s concerned. I just need to be a father to him,” Mychal said. “They hear it enough from their coaches and if they get it from their parents too when they just want to come home and have a relationship with you, then it can be a little bit too much. You’ve got to learn to bite your tongue.”
Klay averaged 18.4 points in his third NBA season and became one of the league’s most dependable three-point shooters, hitting 41.7% of his shots from beyond the arc.
He had 22 points in Game 1 against the Clippers, a big reason the Warriors unexpectedly won, 109-105. He made four three-pointers that night but also showed some post-up ability against the smaller Chris Paul.
“He’s playing an all-around game now,” Mychal said. “He’s not a finished product yet but I’ve always used Kobe [Bryant] as an example. Kobe adds something new to his game it seems like every year.”
It was a completely different story in Game 2, as the Warriors lost by 40. Klay had seven points in 20 minutes.
As the Warriors trailed by 30-something in the fourth quarter, TNT showed Klay’s flat expression on the bench a couple of times.
The road to a title isn’t easy. Mychal helped the Lakers win championships in 1987 and 1988 as a key reserve. He played a total of 12 seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, the Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs.
He’s been watching his son as often as possible, whether Klay was at Santa Margarita High or Washington State for three seasons. Mychal plans to attend Game 4 on Sunday at Golden State.
Fine with Klay.
“He’s been watching me my whole life. He knows what I’m capable of,” he said. “I don’t feel extra pressure if he’s there.”
Mychal likes it that way. Likes what he sees in his son, too, even if it leads to tense, solitary moments near a tunnel at Staples Center.
“It’s what I’ve expected from him because he’s always had the talent and drive to get here,” Thompson said.