Three-time NBA champion Klay Thompson will be back on court for the first time in two and a half years on Sunday when he returns for the Golden State Warriors against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Thompson, a five-time All-Star guard, missed all of the 2019-20 season recovering from a torn ligament in his left knee then missed the 2020-21 campaign with a ruptured right Achilles tendon.
While it has been clear that Thompson was poised to return, the Warriors made it official with an Instagram announcement that featured a clip from Michael Jordan’s “Space Jam” movie in which comedian Bill Murray asks the NBA icon, “Perhaps I can be of some assistance.”
“How I’m pulling up to Chase tomorrow,” Thompson captioned the video. Then, in all caps, “I’M SO EXCITED TO SEE Y’ALL DUBNATION. LET’S GET IT.”
Knowing Thompson had the big reveal planned, Warriors coach Steve Kerr dodged questions about his return when he spoke to reporters after practice on Saturday.
“It’s not my announcement to make,” Kerr said.
But Kerr has been giving thought to Thompson’s return, saying in late December that the star shooting guard — who formed the Warriors’ Splash Brothers duo with Stephen Curry — wouldn’t be coming off the bench.
“Klay’s going to start when he comes back,” Kerr said. “I’m not going to mess around, bring him off the bench for a period of time, I’m not doing any of that. He’s going to start.”
It’s likely to be an emotional night for all of the Warriors. When Curry broke Ray Allen’s all-time record for NBA three-pointers in December, teammate Draymond Green noted the only thing missing from the night at Madison Square Garden was Thompson.
The trio played together on title winning teams in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
Kerr this week discussed what makes Thompson and Curry such a potent duo.
“I think obviously the shooting for both of them makes their jobs easier. They each make the other one better by being such a threat and drawing so much attention.
“Then I think it’s really important that they have the continuity that they have together. Especially when you put Draymond in the mix,” Kerr told ClutchPoints.
How far he has come
Thompson last played in an NBA game on June 13, 2019 in game six of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors.
He tore his left anterior cruciate ligament when he was fouled by Danny Green on a dunk attempt. His return to the court to shoot free throws despite his injured knee were an indelible image from the Warriors’ championship series defeat.
More than 17 months later, Thompson was on his way back from that injury when he tore his right Achilles tendon in a pick-up game on November 18, 2020.
Despite his absence so far this season, the Warriors are jockeying with the Phoenix Suns for best record in the NBA.
While Curry has been largely outstanding, he’s been in a shooting funk for several games that Thompson’s return could help alleviate as the Warriors vie to return to the finals after missing the playoffs the past two seasons.
The team has seen changes since Thompson last played. Kevin Durant departed for Brooklyn as a free agent and the Warriors have moved from their old Oracle Arena in Oakland to the Chase Center in San Francisco.
The Warriors can’t wait to see him get up to speed.
“It’s crazy what (Klay) has been through,” Kerr said after watching Thompson and Curry practice together on New Year’s Eve.
“Thinking back to the Finals in 2019, when he was at the absolute peak of his powers before that injury, it’s remarkable to think about what he has been through, how far he has come, and we’re all just so happy that he’s where he is now.”