The last time that Klay Thompson suited up for the Golden State Warriors, the team was two wins away from capturing its fourth championship in five years. Since then, the club has descended into the world of the draft lottery and play-in games.
Regardless, when Thompson finally does return — which could happen in a matter of weeks — it’s his expectation that the Warriors will be competing for the same things they were before he went down with a torn ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals.
“We are now the type of team where it’s championship or bust,” Thompson said after Tuesday’s practice. “And that’s a really cool position to be in. Not a lot of players get to experience that.”
It’s been a hot minute since the team was in that spot. However, with the Warriors blasting off to a 16-2 start without the help of the five-time All-Star, it’s probably where they are. And Thompson is itching to see the big payoff once again.
“I want to win a fourth ring. Not being able to compete for the last two years, I feel like I have a lot of pent-up energy to be out there and prove, not to anybody else, but to myself that I’m still one of the best.”
Klay Isn’t Sweating the Possibility of Another Injury
Thompson has suffered through more on the injury front than just about anyone in the last few years. After battling back from his ACL tear, he ruptured his Achilles tendon before ever getting the chance to return to the court for Golden State. Between the two injuries, he has missed 30 months of action at this point.
In spite of the devastating nature of his injuries, the heartbreaking false start and all the time that has passed, though, Thompson maintains that he’s not thinking about lightning striking for a third time.
“I don’t fear getting hurt again,” Thompson said. “Because the last two times I did get hurt it was just such a freak accident.”
All he is concerned with at this point is playing the game that he loves with a team that he loves to play for.
“I hate to use the phrase ‘can’t wait’ because I love to be present in my life but I cannot wait to play in front of our fans again. I really, really enjoy being a Warrior.”
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The Final Hurdle
The league has been buzzing since Thompson ramped up his activity level recently. Some are even expecting him to be the same old Klay and, for his part, Steve Kerr has noted that he has looked good as the process has unfolded.
However, the Warriors coach was also quick to point out that there is at least one area where Thompson has a long way to go.
“Especially early when he’s scrimmaging, he’s knocking down shots,” Kerr said on Tuesday, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “But you can see fatigue set in much quicker than we will see in a month, in two months. The endurance stuff is really the key. With endurance comes the rhythm of the shot.”
He added, “It’s hard to shoot when you’re tired. Hard to shoot when you don’t have that endurance. So he’s got a lot of build-up ahead before he can really get back to being himself.”