When the Warriors open their season Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers, it will have been 859 days since Klay Thompson last played in an NBA game. Eight-hundred and fifty-nine days since Thompson walked off the floor at Oracle Arena in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals with a torn ACL.
An ACL rehab, subsequent right Achilles tear and grueling Achilles rehab later, and Thompson is expected to rejoin the Warriors before the end of the calendar year, meaning close to 1,000 days will have passed since we last saw No. 11 torch the nets alongside Steph Curry.
After seeing what his Splash Brother has gone through over the past two years, Curry's excitement for Thompson's return is immeasurable, and he loves how Thompson is approaching his return after another tough year of rehab.
"There's a lot of excitement about what's ahead in terms of his journey over the past two-plus years, the fact that he has been grinding all summer long or this past year since the Achilles to prepare his body and his mind for the difficult task of getting close to 100 percent as possible," Curry told NBC Sports Bay Area's Kerith Burke at Warriors Media Day. "Just keeping his mentals, to steal Marshawn (Lynch)'s line, keeping that right because that's a long time for anybody to worry about one thing. Especially when the joy of actually playing the game is taken away.
"I just love the fact that he has found balance in life, basketball and things outside of it, to keep him energized and positive. This last stretch of his road to get back to playing, it's going to be difficult, and I think he is aware of that and preparing himself for that and then that first game back is going to be unreal."
It was tough for Curry to watch Thompson suffer two severe leg injuries, but he has been proud of how Thompson responded to the adversity and can't wait for that hard work to pay off when the star shooting guard takes the floor again for the Warriors.
"I would love to say it's unfair because it's just a guy who is so pure about the game, that approaches it the right way," Curry said of Thompson's injuries. "That is his happy place and when that's taken away, it's tough. The first injury is obviously heartbreaking. You know what that road map looks like, that timeline. You're like, 'OK, we can deal with that.' Then, there's excitement about the draft and retooling, and the day of the draft you get a call that it is an Achilles.
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"That was emotional on all fronts. I can't imagine, again, what he went through. But he has stayed focused on, again, what's the goal? To get healthy. Whatever that takes, he is doing it. That's all you can ask for at this point, and that's why it's as close as it has ever been and I'm excited for him."
Thompson could be cleared for full practice within the next month, Stadium's Shams Charania reported. That would appear to set Thompson up for a return in the late December-early January range.
Third-year guard Jordan Poole likely will slot into the starting shooting guard spot while Thompson finishes his rehab.
But Thompson's return is on the horizon. After nearly 1,000 days away from the game, Thompson will take his rightful spot alongside Curry in the Warriors' backcourt and Golden State will finally be whole.