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Back on Dec. 12, Klay Thompson was benched down the stretch during the Warriors' 119-116 loss to the Suns. It was a big deal, symbolic of Steve Kerr's slow capitulation to the realities of old names having to be thought of and subsequently deployed in new ways. 

Thompson was not, is not, the player he used to be. The old rules couldn't continue to apply. Thompson had never been benched in closing time, but he had scored just seven points on 2-of-10 shooting (1 of 8 from 3) and was running out of career equity to pay his mounting debts (at that point, he was converting less than 40% of his total shots and 26% of "open" 3-pointers on career-low scoring marks). 

We wondered if it would be the new way; if Thompson would be out of closing lineups for good and more judiciously deployed in general. But the very next game, he went for 30 points, knocking down eight of his 12 3-pointers in a win over the Clippers. It started a six-game stretch over which Thompson averaged 25 points on 50% 3-point shooting (33 for 66). 

Was he back? Not so much. Over his next three games, he missed 26 of 34 shots. He scored nine points in a loss to Denver. Three points in a loss to the Mavericks in which he missed 10 of his 11 shots. Look at his numbers overall and they're plenty acceptable: 17 PPG, 37% from 3. It's just that the swings, particularly the lows, are far more extreme these days. 

So when Thompson was removed from the starting lineup for the first time in his career and proceeded to score 35 points in Golden State's final game before the All-Star break, a win over the Jazz, Warriors fans had to be skeptical that this "Thompson thrives off the bench" narrative would stick. Sure enough, in his second game coming off the bench, Thompson scored three points on 1-of-9 shooting in Golden State's first game out of the All-Star break. 

It came in a solid win over the Lakers, so nobody's going to make much of a fuss about Thompson's dud. And they shouldn't. This is the way of the Klay rollercoaster these days. The extreme drops are always waiting right around the corner. 

Don't be surprised when the ride suddenly shoots back up. Just when things start to look their worst, he has a way of playing his best. He did it after he was benched to end the game against Phoenix. He did it when he was benched to start the game against Utah. Making just 30% of his 3-pointers on less than 15 PPG over his last nine games, he's due for a good stretch as the calendar approaches March. 

If it comes, the Warriors will gladly ride it. But they can't depend on it anymore. His performances have become something of a coin flip. He might come out and score 30 off the bench, or he might lay the egg that he did on Thursday when didn't make his first shot -- his only shot -- until the 44-second mark of the third quarter. 

In truth, the Warriors, who have won nine of their past 11 games and are starting to at least resemble a team that could put a scare into someone in the playoffs, are a team of timing now. If they catch a heater at the right time, they can beat anyone. They just have to hope that whatever heaters Klay has left in him come, indeed, at the right time. Or, looked at another way, that the inevitable plunges don't come at the wrong one.