- Golden State Warriors superstar Klay Thompson participated in his first full practice since tearing his left ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals and his right Achilles in November 2020.
- Thompson could return to the lineup at some point in December after missing the entire 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 NBA seasons.
- The Warriors have the league’s best record at 15-2 and host the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.
After a run in which the Golden State Warriors won three NBA Championships in four seasons, they’ve had a tough time of it over the past two seasons. This was due to injuries to their two best players–franchise guard Stephen Curry played just 5 games in the 2019-2020 season and Klay Thompson hasn’t played since Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, missing the previous two seasons in their entirety.
Curry spent last season playing his way back into MVP form and now he looks better than ever. That’s a big part of why Golden State enters Wednesday night’s home game against the Philadelphia 76ers with a NBA-best 15-2 record. The Warriors opened the season 4-1 after which they embarked upon a 7 game winning streak. Following an upset loss against the Hornets in Charlotte they’ve once again won their next four. They’ve not only won more games than any team in the league they’ve done so while dominating statistically. Golden State not only has the highest average offensive points output per game at 114.2 they also have the best scoring defense in the league giving up just 101.1 PPG, fractionally better than the Denver Nuggets. That gives Golden State the only double digit points differential in the league at +13.4. That’s 4.4 PPG better than the Utah Jazz at +9 and nearly double the differential of the third and fourth place teams (Miami and Phoenix at +7.4 and +7 respectively). As good as Golden State has played so far this season, they only lead the Pacific Division and Western Conference by a single game. That’s because the Phoenix Suns have caught fire–after a 1-3 start to the season, last year’s NBA Championship runner up has not lost winning 13 straight. They have an excellent chance to make that 14 straight heading into the Thanksgiving Break as they play at 9-9 Cleveland on Wednesday night.
The frightening thing about the Warriors is that as good as they’ve been they’re going to get significant better very soon. That’s because Klay Thompson is finally nearing a return to action. Thompson has missed the past two NBA seasons due to injury. He tore his left ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals and ruptured his right Achilles in November 2020 while rehabbing his previous injury. It’s been a long road back but now that he’s completed his first full practice since his injury issues began there’s definitely ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. Golden State has not put a public timeline on his return but every indication is that he could be back in the lineup by Christmas. Then again, a 15-2 team has the luxury of letting him take all the time he needs.
No surprise that Thompson is thrilled just to be able to practice on a basketball court once again:
“It’s so exciting. Just to be running up and down the court and playing basketball, it’s truly a blessing and it makes coming to work so easy. The boring stuff’s behind me, and now it’s just getting back in game shape — I got to stay patient because I can be an overeager person to get out there and play, but I’m just incredibly grateful to be out there. The work the training staff and I have done over the last two years is really paying off, and it’s hard to put into words how grateful I am to be playing basketball again.”
As understandably anxious as Thompson is to get back in the lineup, head coach Steve Kerr’s job is to do what is best for the team. For the immediate future, that means giving Thompson all the time he needs to rebuild his strength and endurance. Kerr explained the team’s mindset as Thompson works to toward making a return:
“We don’t have a target date. What we have is a number of weeks ahead of us for certain where we’re going to play it out, keep letting him scrimmage as often as possible so that he’ll build that endurance. And I would think within a few weeks we’ll be able to finally sort of get a target date, but we don’t have one right now.”
“The biggest thing is he hasn’t played in 2½ years. So while the Achilles is structurally sound, there’s been no ill effects; it’s just a matter of building strength and endurance, especially the endurance part, it just takes time. It takes a while. So even though he’s playing full bore, and he practiced full bore just now, he needs to keep doing this over and over and over again every day, really blow it out. Get his conditioning back, his endurance back. So we’re going to be very patient with Klay, too.”
Thompson is smart enough to know that following the process outlined by his coach is not only best for the Warriors but in his best interest as well:
“I don’t want to come back and be a shell of myself. I want to come back like I was the last time I was playing and I was one of the best players in the world.”
Teammate Kevon Looney is impressed not only with Thompson’s work ethic but by how good he looks after such a long pro hoops hiatus:
“Klay looked good. Especially for someone who had been out that long. You can still tell that he’s got work to do, and he’s been working hard, he looks good, he looks like an NBA player, he looks like a top-notch athlete already. So I’m excited to see him get back on the court. He gets better every day, every week, so I’m excited to see the next step he takes.”
Asked the somewhat obvious question of whether the Warriors could win a title this year, Thompson was emphatic in his response:
“Oh, yeah. We’re 15-2. That’s a great indicator of [championship readiness], and our defense, I think it’s top three in the league as well as our offense — and I’m not even out there yet. Think about that. Really think about that. I’m more motivated than ever as well. I want a championship so bad. More than anything.”
Golden State is getting strong support from the NBA futures betting market though they’re not the favorite. The top choice at Betfred USA Sports is the 13-5 Brooklyn Nets who are priced at +260 to win the first NBA Championship in franchise history as well as a +145 choice to win the Eastern Conference. They have reached the NBA Finals twice in 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs respectively. The New York Nets also won a pair of ABA Championships (1973-1974 and 1975-1976) led by the legendary Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving.
The Warriors are the second choice in the betting market at +650 to win the NBA Championship and +325 to win the Western Conference. The only other team priced at single digit odds to win the NBA Championship is the defending champs, the Milwaukee Bucks at +700 with the slumping Los Angeles Lakers a +1000 fourth choice.