Even though Klay Thompson hasn’t played in an NBA game for more than two full years, a former Golden State Warriors teammate believes the All-Star guard will quickly make up for lost time.
JaVale McGee, who played with Thompson on the Warriors on two NBA championship teams, spoke out this week about the series of devastating injuries that have kept Thompson away from the hardwood for two seasons. Thompson is nearing a return from an Achilles injury suffered last November, just prior to the start of the season, after having already lost the 2019-20 season due to an ACL tear. With Thompson now nearing his return, McGee talked about what he expects to see out of the Splash Brother.
The latest Warriors news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Warriors newsletter here!
The ‘Old Klay’ Returns
Speaking to Shannon Sharpe on “Club Shay Shay,” McGee said he believes that Thompson’s offensive game will be return quickly, and the defense will follow not too long afterward. Thompson has been sharing some videos showing off his shooting, which appears to be back to his pre-injury form.
“I expect the old Klay [Thompson] to tell the truth,” McGee said. “The only thing I see will maybe be slacking in that first month of the season is defense, just because you know how aggressive Klay is and how good he is on defense. I don’t think you’re gonna get those reps in the offseason or practice on the defensive end. So I think that first month he’s gonna struggle a little bit on defense, but offensively he didn’t hurt his arm.
“Ain’t nothing wrong with his arm, so that boy’s gonna shoot.”
It’s not clear just what full form could look like for Thompson after having lost two full seasons. In his last season on the court in 2018-19, Thompson averaged 21.5 points per game, making 40.2% of his three-pointers.
The Warriors have spent the past several months preparing for Thompson’s return, building a team that the front office hopes will be a title contender. Golden State had struggled without Thompson, falling short of the playoffs in each of the two seasons that he lost due to injury, with the latest campaign ending with the Warriors failing to advance out of the league’s new play-in tournament.
Rehab Raises Worries
While McGee may have plenty of faith in his former teammate, others have raised concern with how effective he could be in his return. Speaking on his On the Ball podcast, NBA insider Ric Bucher said the team’s announcement this week that both Thompson and teammate James Wiseman were making “good progress” in their respective rehabs may have been a bit of a smokescreen.
“Because the Warriors are smart. Training camp starts in less than a week,” he said. “Better to let everyone know now that Thompson and Wiseman will be limited in their participation, rather than have the media show up and be surprised by how limited that participation is.”
Thompson will likely not see action through the first several weeks of the season. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported that the team is targeting the Christmas Day game against the Phoenix Suns for his return.