The Warriors, a league-best 14-2, returned to San Francisco this weekend to good news.
Klay Thompson came through well after a week of 5-on-5 scrimmaging and has been cleared to be a full-time participant in all future Warriors’ practices, sources tell The Athletic. Thompson is trending toward a potential return the week before Christmas Day, those sources said.
In-season practices aren’t the most intense. Veterans typically use off-days to rest, get treatment and watch film. So Thompson won’t spend the next week running through constant game speed reps with Steph Curry and Draymond Green. The full-team workouts are pretty light.
But this is still a vital advancement in his ramp-up. The Warriors don’t have a game on either Monday or Tuesday. During off-days, they typically set up a scrimmage with players at the back end of their team rotation who need court work. Thompson is expected to join those scrimmages, matching him against other current NBA athletes in a full-blown, unconstrained contact setting for the first time since he suffered the first of two major injuries in June 2019 when he sustained a torn ACL. Thompson suffered a torn Achilles tendon last November.
Free agent and recent pro Dante Exum was among the players in this past week’s Thompson scrimmages, and sources said Thompson had strong showings in the five-on-five play. It was his first time running five-on-fives, albeit with players who are not currently playing on a pro team. Mychel Thompson, Klay Thompson’s older brother, has also been a featured presence as part of the return-to-play plan.
It’s been 892 days since Klay Thompson has appeared in a game. His right Achilles tear came during the final stage of his left ACL rehab, so the Warriors — given the extended layoff and recent experience — have been extremely careful easing him back. Steve Kerr has mentioned multiple times his belief that Kevin Durant’s brilliant return from an Achilles injury is partially due to the 18-month gap between tear and return.
“(Brooklyn) did a smart job last year pacing him,” Kerr said of Durant.
But Thompson is fully healed from both injuries. It’s now only about conditioning and rhythm, building his body back to game shape. The next month is essentially viewed as his training camp; the increasingly intense scrimmages will be his preseason.
In controlled settings, Thompson’s been doing 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 contact for about a month and hasn’t shied away from the cameras, even going through his shooting routine on the main court pregame in a full jersey, an indication of how well he is beginning to feel. Early in camp, he was hesitant to be spotted, even telling a couple of cameras to stop filming.
Those viewing his recent workouts and scrimmages report encouraging shades of the Thompson of old — the shot as deadly as ever, the big guard physicality still a part of his game, though fatigue sets in quickly.
Thompson has already warned fans to expect limited minutes upon his return, living in the 18-22 range to start and perhaps some back-to-back restrictions as he builds his stamina.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t expect to come back balls to the wall, 38 minutes a night, guarding the best player, running around 100 screens,” Thompson said in March. “But I’m going to get to that point. I guarantee that.”
Thompson will not debut in a road game. Kerr has said the organization wants to save that moment for Chase Center, which nails down a pair of likely dates to expect him back.
The Warriors have three home games in early December. That appears too soon. They then go out East on a five-game trip, not returning until Dec. 20 for two home games.
Barring setbacks, either Dec. 20 against the Kings or Dec. 23 against the Grizzlies are expected comeback dates before the marquee matchup on Christmas Day in Phoenix. If Thompson does not return during that pocket of games, the Warriors also have two off days after the Christmas Day game prior to a Dec. 28 home game against the Nuggets.
As with all return-to-play situations, it remains in flux, dependent on how his body responds to an increased workload. But that’s the landscape for a Thompson returns as December nears.
(Photo: Noah Graham / NBAE via Getty Images)