We are coming up to the anniversary of the devastating Achilles tendon injury that has kept Warriors star Klay Thompson out for the past two seasons, and there is little doubt that anticipation for Thompson’s return is building steadily. But one of the questions in the background ahead of Thompson’s comeback remains: What will Thompson’s role be when he is able to play again?
Thompson, after all, has played 615 NBA games and has been a starter in 578 of them. The last time he came off the bench was in March 2011, but it might be more suitable to ease Thompson back into a major role. But then, it’s a role with which he is unfamiliar. Should the Warriors drop Thompson right back into the starting five this time around, even though he has not suited up for an NBA game since June 2019?
Warriors insider Kerith Burke seems to think that’s how Golden State will approach things, pointing out that the Warriors coaches or front office have given no indication of the team’s intentions.
“While the team has not announced their plan for Klay’s first game back, my gut is telling me Klay will start,” she wrote. “If you want to do everything you can to make Klay comfortable and let Klay be Klay, put him back in the situation he knows. That’s playing alongside Steph and Draymond from the jump. Give Klay the starting lineup roar. Let him remember exactly what it all feels like so he can thrive.”
Warriors Starting 5 Has Established Chemistry
If there is a concern with that approach, it would be that Thompson could interrupt the starting five’s current chemistry, with Jordan Poole averaging 17.1 points at the shooting guard and Andrew Wiggins thriving with 18.1 points per game of his own. The team is 12-2, after all.
The Warriors starters are sixth in scoring, at 77.9 points, despite a number of blowout wins that have reduced the unit’s overall time on the floor—in fact, the Warriors starters play an average of 27.8 minutes, fewest in the NBA. Their plus-7.1 plus/minus rating is No. 1 in the league.
There will be some consideration, then, given to the notion that the Warriors have established first-unit chemistry and won’t want to interfere with that.
Thompson Playing 5-on-5
Starter or no, the Warriors did have more news on Thompson’s rehab, with coach Steve Kerr noting this week that he is playing 5-on-5.
“I got good reports and he’s got to keep going,” Kerr said. “A two-year absence requires a lot of work. Not just a rehab, but the endurance, the strength, so it’s great that he’s playing 5-on-5 but it doesn’t mean he’s going to be ready to step on an NBA floor next week or something, but he’s progressing really well.”
And Thompson has been obviously getting increasingly excited about his return. This week, he spoke with Sports Illustrated’s Howard Beck about the Warriors’ fast start and how he still finds some observers doubting his team. As he said:
I love it. I love it. I hope people keep doubting us. I saw somebody on the TV the other day talking about, the Warriors aren’t contenders because they’ve had a soft schedule. Buddy, we got the MVP, a defensive player of the year. That kind of disrespect bothers me. We have so many champions, guys who have done it in the highest pressure moments, and you’re still gonna question our ability? I love it. But whatever. That’s what talking heads are paid to do.