NEW ORLEANS -- The rarity of it isn't lost on Klay Thompson. The Warriors rookie took 24 shots in Wednesday's 101-92 win over the New Orleans Hornets.
Sure, he made only 11, which isn't a percentage worth bragging about. But the bigger point is he got to take 24 shots. Dorell Wright hasn't taken 20 in a game this season. Stephen Curry, though he's played only 26 games, tops out at 21. David Lee, a seventh-year vet, has taken that many shots just five times -- in his career.
"As a rookie, to put up 24 shots is really rare," said Thompson, who set a career high with 27 points. "I'm really thankful Coach (Mark) Jackson has the confidence in me to let me take those shots and play my game."
The Warriors have no doubt shown confidence in Thompson, anointing him the successor to guard Monta Ellis, the team's star shooting guard for years before being dealt to Milwaukee on March 13. But it's already obvious why Golden State is willing to stake its future on the rookie.
In the six games since the Ellis trade, Thompson is averaging 20 points in 37 minutes. He's shooting 40.9 percent in those games, but that's probably more because he's working on his repertoire and learning how to be a reliable scorer.
The fact that he's taken 24 shots -- and no one on the team is griping about it -- is a sign of his potential as a scorer.
"It's a gift to be able to get shots," Jackson said. "If I went out there and took 24 shots, you would say I was being selfish and chucking up shots from all over the place. His shots are coming off down screens, getting air space, him making plays, ball reversals. I don't really recall a bad shot by him. Crazy thing is I recall him turning down a shot or two. He just has a gift to be able to get open, take and make shots."
Thompson scored 10 points in the third quarter as the Warriors created some cushion on the way to ending a four-game losing streak. One stretch showed the versatility that has Warriors management drooling.
He knocked a couple midrange jumpers early in the quarter. But with the Warriors down 58-54, he started an 11-4 run with a 3-pointer. Moments later, he converted a three-point play on fast-break layup he created by picking off a pass from Hornets forward Trevor Ariza. After his free throw, the Warriors led 60-58.
The Warriors' next two baskets, a 3-pointer by Rush and a dunk by Lee, were set up by Thompson -- who tied his career-high with five assists.
After that, Lee took over. He scored eight points in just over two minutes, his turnaround jumper giving Golden State a 75-66 lead. Point guard Nate Robinson then scored eight fourth-quarter points to help keep the Hornets at bay.
With 1:30 left in the game, Thompson sealed the victory with one last basket. This time, he drove past Hornets guard Marco Belinelli for a two-hand dunk. A fitting capper considering the progress he's made as a scorer.
"He came into the league being able to get open off screens and get shots," Jackson said. "The thing that he's gotten better with doing from Day 1 is putting the ball on the floor. He was not able to do that the first time he stepped on an NBA court. Right now he's comfortable doing it, and he's going to continue to get better."
This last stretch of games is vital for Thompson. Considering he'll be called on to score, these games are helping him develop his arsenal and learn how to become a consistent scorer in the NBA.
While touting his first step and his ballhandling skills, Thompson said he's working on developing his counter moves and secondary moves -- because "that's what all the great scorers have." He also said he's learning how to draw fouls and get to the free throw line, as well as create shots for his teammates.
Why are Jackson and his teammates are so confident Thompson can become a reliable scorer? He's got a trick in his bag to rely on.
"He's got one of the best shooting strokes in the league," Lee said after totaling 25 points and 11 rebounds. "You add the feel for the game that he has, that makes him very difficult to guard. It all comes from the fact that everything he does works off his jump shot. He can really, really shoot the ball. I'd put him up there with just about anybody in the league."
Hickson -- a 6-foot-9, 242-pound power forward in his fourth season -- was waived last week by Sacramento. Golden State wanted to sign him but didn't have the $2.35 million under the cap needed to claim him off waivers.
The Warriors' only hope was that Hickson cleared waivers and they could sign him as a free agent. Rules allow teams to sign players to the minimum despite being over the cap. According to a multiple sources, Hickson was interested in joining the Warriors.
Golden State, after trading big man Ekpe Udoh to Milwaukee, is in need of front line help. Before flaming out in Sacramento, Hickson built a reputation as a promising young big man in Cleveland.