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Kerr on Klay Thompson’s return: ‘The light is finally at the end of the tunnel’

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Kerr was on 95.7 The Game and also touched on the Warriors’ plans for James Wiseman.

Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

While the Golden State Warriors are preparing for the 2021 NBA Draft, head coach Steve Kerr is trying to help Team USA capture another gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Kerr is an assistant coach to Gregg Popovich for the games but is still very much involved in the Dubs’ offseason plans. Kerr joined Damon, Ratto and Kolsky on 95.7 The Game for an interview and was asked about how All-Star guard Klay Thompson is doing while recovering from his Achilles injury.

“Good news is [that] really been diligent with his work. He and Rick Celebrini have worked closely all summer, he’s right on schedule. He’s been on the floor running now for the last few weeks. I think the light is finally at the end of the tunnel.

“But you know, we get close to the season, and he gets closer and closer, we’re obviously going to be very, very careful and we’ll lean on the advice of our training staff to let us know when he’s ready to play.”

Thompson has missed back-to-back seasons with serious injuries. He tore his ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals and was on track to return for the beginning of the 2020-21 campaign.

Unfortunately, Thompson suffered an Achillies on the day of the 2020 NBA Draft last November. Kerr said the usual timeline for a player to fully recover from an Achilles injury is usually a year, so the Warriors don’t plan on rushing back the five-time All-Star.

No one knows what to expect from Thompson when he returns. He’s one of the best shooters in NBA history and has been one of the best defensive players on Golden State for years.

Kerr has a shining example of how good a player can be when returning from an Achilles injury right in front of him for the next few weeks. Former Warrior Kevin Durant is representing Team USA at the Olympics just over two years after he tore his Achilles in the 2019 Finals against the Toronto Raptors.

Kevin is absolutely an inspiration to Klay and to those of us who are coaching Klay because Kevin does not look one bit different to me coaching him now than he did two years ago when he was playing for the Warriors so it’s really, really encouraging.

Like Thompson, Durant missed all of the 2019-2020 campaign while recovering from the injury. He appeared in 35 games for the Brooklyn Nets this season and was his usual, dominant self, putting up 26.9 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting a tidy 45 percent from the 3-point line.

Another player who has been under the spotlight for the Dubs this offseason is James Wiseman. The big man had an up-and-down rookie season and has been mentioned as possible trade bait. According to John Hollinger of The Athletic, Golden State has explored trade opportunities involving Wiseman and their pair of lottery picks (Nos. 7 and 14).

But Kerr is still high on the Memphis product.

“He really is a sponge and the guy wants to learn, wants to work, wants to be a big part of the team, very motivated. James is just a great kid. I think that reinforced what we thought before the draft last year.”

Wiseman averaged 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in 21.4 minutes per game, but consistency issues plagued the 20-year-old. Golden State’s net rating was 11.4 points better per 100 possessions with Wiseman on the bench. His 110.6 defensive rating is fourth-worst out of any Warrior who has played meaningful minutes, per NBA.com.

Because of the pandemic, Wiseman’s rookie season wasn’t played under ideal circumstances, especially for a guy who only played three games in college. In addition, Wiseman missed out on development time due to the team’s facility being shut down because of COVID-19 restrictions.

On top of that, Wiseman dealt with some bad luck during his rookie campaign. In February, he missed three weeks with a wrist injury and was out of the lineup for three more games in March due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols before tearing his meniscus.

Kerr believes all of those factors played a role in hindering Wiseman’s development.

“Obviously, the setback of the injury along with not having summer league last year or this year, and not having training camp last year, all that stuff has just put him behind where he would have been otherwise.”

Still, Kerr is high on Wiseman going into next season. The Dubs are trying to reload for another championship run, and Kerr intends on giving Wiseman plenty of opportunities to play a big role in the team’s success.

“We’ll start James from opening night, and see what he’s got and then kind of throw him into the deep end a little bit. I think this year will be much more sort of streamlined. Let’s put him in positions where he can really help us on game nights and where we can really help develop him on practices, and as that process goes forward he’ll have a chance to play more and more if he’s ready to help us win games.

“And if not, that’s fine, we’ll keep developing him because he’s 20 years old. I know everybody’s impatient [and] wants him to be great, but it just doesn’t work that way.”

You can listen to the full interview below.