Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson is scheduled to make his highly anticipated return against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, according to The Athletic. The season debut comes 31 months after the five-time All-Star last played an NBA game.
The 31-year-old tore the ACL in his left knee during Game 6 of the Finals in June 2019. In his attempt to come back for the start of the ensuing season, Thompson tore his right Achilles tendon in November 2020.
The Warriors cleared Thompson fully for practice a year later. With practices few and far between, he rehabbed with the team’s G League affiliate in Santa Cruz last month. When Golden State’s Dec. 30 game in Denver was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the Nuggets, the shorthanded Warriors held an impromptu scrimmage in an empty Ball Arena, and Thompson finally played with Stephen Curry again.
“For all of us who have been around the team for so many years and have known Steph and Klay as well as we have, it was just really cool to see them on the floor again for the first time in 2 1/2 years,” their coach, Steve Kerr, told 95.7 The Game afterward. “It’s crazy what he has been through, and 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’s been through, how far he’s come, and we’re all just so happy that he is where he is now.”
Footage of Thompson sinking 24 consecutive 3-pointers in Vivint Arena prior to Golden State’s New Year’s Day victory against the Utah Jazz further primed fans for the sharpshooter’s return to the team he helped lead to three championships and five straight Finals appearances. The Warriors missed the playoffs twice in Thompson’s absence, but they rebounded this season to post the league’s best record through 35 games.
If Thompson is anywhere close to his pre-injury level, when he was one of the game’s greatest shooters and his team’s best perimeter defender, the Warriors could leapfrog the Brooklyn Nets as title favorites.
“It’s impressive man to see what he does, what he can do,” the Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins told reporters in Utah about Thompson’s recent progress. “The impact he has defensively, offensively, it’s crazy. I’m excited to play with him, excited for him to get back. The league’s going to be in trouble when he gets back.”
That time is now.
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