Upon returning to the Warriors in January 2022, Klay Thompson was anxious and uncertain but delighted to be back on the court. Away from the NBA for 941 days due to two devastating injuries, he wanted nothing more than to be back in the league.
Thompson soon realized he had to complete the process of trusting his body before he could even begin to clear the cobwebs in his mind.
Not until this summer was it abundantly clear that those barriers no longer stand. For the first time in 51 months, there were no cautionary voices whispering in Klay’s ear.
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“For Klay, it's been tough the last few years with his injuries,” general manager Mike Dunleavy told reporters Monday. “He's (been) doing a lot of rehab, and you get to the point where it's like, all right. I'm sure he got through our championship season, and just it was in some ways a reset and a letdown, and I think last summer was tough for him.
“This summer, he's been a totally different animal and really engaged on it, and like I said, in a great place right now to kick off the season.”
After missing two full seasons and most of a third in the wake of devastating injuries, Thompson was limited to 32 games when he returned in 2021-22. When the season ended in June with an NBA Finals victory, Klay took a vacation from high-intensity basketball. He admitted deliberately avoiding the summertime pickup games that had been a part of his routine since his teenage years.
Those annoying whispers told him he was not ready.
Golden State Warriors
This summer, after his first full season since 2018-19, Klay has been on the court as often he was before surgeries to repair a torn left ACL (July 2019) and ruptured right Achilles’ tendon (November 2020). There is video evidence of strenuous workouts – including the pickup games he always loved.
It’s not a coincidence that Klay avoided pickup ball last summer, for that’s precisely what he was doing when his Achilles’ tendon gave way.
Now? Thompson looks, dare we say, like the guy who through his first eight years in the NBA missed an average of three games per season. He’s 33 years old. And with only one season remaining on his contract, it’s imperative that his mental aspect is sound.
The sight of Thompson in full sweat, running and jumping and bumping and banging with only pride at stake, is allowing the Warriors to envision the five-time All-Star chasing his sixth appearance in the game – and first since 2019.
“As you get older, offseasons become even more important,” Dunleavy said. “You have to find a way to keep yourself in shape, in the mix, so when training camp comes around, you're ready to go.”
The Warriors are committed to making a run for a fifth and perhaps final championship run with the current nucleus of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Thompson.
Nothing could be more encouraging for the Warriors than knowing Klay is attacking the game with a vengeance.
And nothing could be more exciting for Klay than to prepare without physical restrictions or mental reticence, for he’s entering the final year of his contract.