Basketball

Klay Thompson: The Return

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The best time of the year is finally here. Christmas is on the horizon, the NFL playoffs are nearing, and basketball season is well underway. What’s not to like?

For the Warriors and their fans, life is great. Their team sits at 23-5 and tied for first place in the Western Conference with reinforcements on the way. Specifically, the long-awaited return of the man, the myth, the legend, Klay Thompson.

When is He Set to Come Back?

According to reports, the earliest possible return is Dec. 28 against the Nuggets. The Warriors have said he will return to action in a home game so if he doesn’t come back on Dec. 28 the next home game would be against the Miami Heat on Jan. 3. The Warriors don’t have too many home games around the New Year – they only have two home games between Christmas and Jan. 6 – so I would expect him to come back on one of those two dates barring a setback. And if not on one of those two dates, Jan. 9 against Cleveland would also be a possibility.

Thompson, alongside James Wiseman, has recently spent some time with the Warriors G-League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors to ramp up his conditioning and get game-like reps in. He’s even been seen warming up before Warriors games recently.

What to Expect in His Return

After sitting out the entirety of two seasons, it’s tough to really know what to expect from Thompson when he finally hits the court again. I don’t think people should necessarily expect him to return to pre-injury form. However, he’s not a guy that ever relied a whole lot on his athleticism and I really don’t expect his game to change a whole lot but it may take him a little while to get back up to the speed of the NBA game again and find his rhythm.

In his first few games back, I’d expect him to be on some sort of minutes restriction, but I do think he’ll start when he gets back on the court. The Warriors are strategically bringing him back at home and what better way to welcome him back than with a standing ovation from the crowd when his name is called in the starting lineup?

Thompson’s play style and shooting prowess should theoretically allow him to be effective early on in his return even if the speed of the game is a bit fast for him after sitting out two seasons. But, he is an NBA veteran and it’s possible he doesn’t really miss a beat in his return. I’m not confident he’ll get back to his old 20 point per game averages right away but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to see him shoot the ball at an efficient clip and average around 15-18 points per game by the end of the season. And quite frankly, that might be all the Warriors need.

In this day and age, it isn’t impossible for a player to excel following a comeback from major injuries like Thompson has suffered. As recent as last season we’ve seen Kevin Durant come back from an Achilles tear and play at an all-world level. We’ve also seen high-caliber contributors like Rudy Gay and Wesley Matthews come back from major Achilles injuries in recent years.

Thompson’s injuries aren’t the career death sentence that they used to be. His return is going to make the Warriors more lethal than they already are. Considering Golden State is on pace for about 68 wins at the moment, that’s a frightening notion for the rest of the league.

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