OAKLAND, Calif. — Klay Thompson craved a little calm.
The Golden State Warriors guard needed something more to balance out his basketball routine, so he added meditation to help him get centered before games and better deal with the pressures of NBA life. Flip on some classical music or nature sounds and he's ready to relax his mind.
It takes consistent practice, just like that pretty jumper.
"I try to go 30 minutes," said Thompson, who is joined for some sessions by bulldog bestie, Rocco. "It's hard. It's very hard. An hour would be nice, but you've got to work up to that."
Thompson is in a good place right now, going to a fifth consecutive NBA Finals and chasing a three-peat with the Warriors.
Two-time reigning Finals Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant sat out injured for the entire Western Conference finals, leaving Thompson and Splash Brother Stephen Curry to take on an even greater load on both ends.
Thompson heads into Game 1 at the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night averaging 19.1 points these playoffs, having scored 22.6 points per game in the five games without Durant.
Mental preparation off the court is a major reason Thompson no longer lets things fester or bring him down, such as a tough loss or bad outing. He has said that earlier in his career it was hard to let go after games.
Now, he instead shrugs off a poor shooting performance with the simple notion of, "That's the way the basketball gods can be." Then, it's back to work.
Left off the All-NBA team? "Oh, I didn't?" he replied when told he hadn't made the cut.
Thompson did allow himself a little eye roll in disbelief, before adding: "It is what it is. I can't control it. Do I think there's that many guards better than me in the league? No, but that's the reason why we're still playing. So, I don't even want to get into it, honestly."
He credits meditation in part for how far he has come in handling everything as he wraps up his eighth NBA season.
Thompson added meditation and visualization into his routine the past couple of years. This is the typically stoic guard who plunged into the Pacific Ocean in Southern California before Game 4 of the first round against the Los Angeles Clippers following a performance that wasn't up to his "standards." He went out and scored 32 after that with six 3-pointers, making his first seven shots.
"The mind's so powerful. Just try to train the mind to deal with adversity in situations that are unpleasant but make you better in the long run, that's what I try to do," Thompson said when asked how he got involved in meditation. "Just a lot of reading on the internet and learning from coach [Steve] Kerr. Learned from Tony Robbins, too. It was cool talking to him last year. He had a great outlook on things. Just from veteran players. David West taught me a lot about that side of the game, the mental part."
Teammate Shaun Livingston can picture Thompson in a moment of complete serenity and peace — "100 percent, nothing would surprise me."
Dr. Michael Gervais, a high-performance psychologist who has worked closely with the Seattle Seahawks, NBA players, USA Volleyball and other Olympic athletes, applauds Thompson taking up meditation on his own.
"So often we hold up world-leading athletes on a pedestal for their physical abilities, missing the deeper and extraordinary commitment they make toward pursuing their potential," Gervais said. "There are only three things we can train as humans: our craft, our bodies, and our mind. World-class athletes don't leave any of those up to chance — why should the rest of us?"
The 29-year-old Thompson takes time the night before a game to think ahead. It doesn't matter if he's in the driveway or hanging out in his backyard with beloved Rocco — "just random," he said.
Sometimes he envisions each shot from a given spot on the floor that could present itself over the course of a game.
"Andre Iguodala told me that Tiger Woods visualizes every single shot he shoots on 18 holes on the golf course, so if he can do that, that's incredible," Thompson said. "That's so many golf swings. I try to do the same approach to basketball. I just try to visualize, get in my spots, what my opponent is going to do. Yeah, so when you come to the game, you've kind of seen it before."