Warriors coach Mark Jackson didn't spare rookie Klay Thompson. Instead, twice in five days, Jackson let his new starting off-guard match up against Kobe Bryant.
"It's only going to make him better," Jackson said Monday. "I just want him to continue to progress."
Bryant totaled 70 points in those two games, including several clutch baskets that helped the Los Angeles Lakers pull out two victories.
But Thompson, who totaled 38 points and 10 assists, displayed why the Warriors -- who visit Memphis on Tuesday -- have such faith in him. He also displayed some areas in his game that he needs to develop, holes that stood out next to Bryant.
On one hand, he was competitive and aggressive, clearly embracing the challenge. On the other hand, he had a tendency to lose focus, relied too heavily on his outside shot and wasn't able to help offset the beating on the boards that Golden State took.
Jackson chalked it up as valuable experience for his rookie.
"Klay has the potential to be a two-way player," teammate Dominic McGuire said. "It's hard your rookie year, so he'll keep getting better as he learns. He's young, and he's out there competing and that's all you can ask. He's getting better every game."
The variety in Bryant's repertoire paints the ideal picture for a scoring guard. His penetration, his post game, his ability to get to sweet spots, the pressure he puts on the defense in transition, his propensity for getting to the foul -- as shooting guards go, Bryant is the complete package.
That's why Thompson was paying close attention.
"Especially his post game," Thompson said of Bryant. "He can go to either shoulder. He's got great hang time. And his footwork's amazing. So I tried to pick up on those things."
Thompson's repertoire is centered around his outside shot. But since becoming a starter, he hasn't knocked them down at a pace that warrants all the rave. He's shooting 42.6 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from 3-point range since becoming a full-time starter.
Still, Jackson called the former Washington State Cougar a special shooter. But Thompson's current kick is developing the other parts of his game: moving without the ball, catching-and-shooting, creating off the dribble and setting up teammates.
Because those areas of his game are still developing, Thompson tends to lean heavily on the threes -- he was 2 for 13 in his two games against Bryant. He also scarcely gets to the free throw line -- he took one in two games against the Lakers and has taken five free throws or more in a game just twice since the Monta Ellis trade.
There's also the issue of focus.
"He probably has one or two plays a game where he makes rookie mistakes," Jackson said. "I'm probably being kind saying one or two. But those things you have to live with and expect him to grow."
Also, though being 6-foot-7 with decent leaping ability, Thompson doesn't rebound much. He averages 4.5 rebounds per 48 minutes. That's tied for 25th -- among rookie guards.
Considering Golden State's rebounding troubles, Thompson's rebounding shortcomings especially stand out. Jackson said he's not concerned, though, because Thompson has shown a willingness to mix it up inside.
What's of utmost importance to Jackson is that Thompson takes advantage of this time in his NBA career. Since the trade that made him the starter, he's topped 35 minutes in seven of the 13 games.
Jackson and several in the locker room sound sure Thompson will absorb the hands-on lessons he's receiving and enhance his game. And they salivate at what the end result could present.
"There's going to come a day where they're going to have to guard him," Jackson said, referencing the Lakers' choice to put a lesser defender on Thompson and sparing Bryant. "We're going to have weapons on the floor and there's going to be a price to pay across the board (for not defending him). ... He's gaining more and more confidence."