According to the NBA’s preeminent rumor monger, Adrian Wojnarowski, there is “optimism” that Klay Thompson will play his first NBA game in two-and-a-half years this Sunday against Cleveland.
There’s optimism Golden Warriors guard Klay Thompson will make his return vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, sources tell ESPN. A final decision is expected once the Warriors return from a two-game trip on Friday.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 3, 2022
Thompson has been out all season recovering from an Achilles tear that happened on draft night in 2020, 14 months ago. Before that, he missed the entire 2019-20 season while rehabbing a torn ACL suffered in Game 6 of the 2019 Finals. It’s been a slow process, as the Warriors have been understandably cautious about rushing him back. Meanwhile Klay has been doggedly rehabbing and biding his time - riding the stationary bike on the sidelines, practicing and scrimmaging in Santa Cruz, and cruising around the Bay in his boat. Which he’d park anywhere he wanted, because he’s Klay Thompson.
Thompson achieved a huge milestone this week when the Warriors game against the Denver Nuggets was cancelled due to Denver’s lack of players. While that infuriated Draymond Green, it gave the Warriors the chance to scrimmage on an NBA floor - and that included Klay. It’s the first time he’s played alongside Andrew Wiggins, who commented, “Bro he doesn’t dribble.” According to Steph Curry, Thompson took “like 17 shots in 12 minutes.” Thompson also hit 24 consecutive corner threes during warmups in Utah, which seems like a very positive sign for his return.
Steve Kerr has already said that Thompson will be returning as a starter, saying “I’m not going to mess around and bring him off the bench.” And with the Warriors’ road-heavy schedule in the first half of January, their stated plans to bring him back for a home game offer limited opportunities. He’s not coming back for tonight’s game against the Heat - though Draymond is - and after Sunday, the team goes on the road for four games. So assuming Klay can pass his final checkup on Friday, when the Warriors return from a two-game road trip, Sunday is Klay Day.
It’s not clear how this will affect the rotation, but working a future Hall of Famer into the lineup is a nice problem to have. Kerr seems to have anticipated Thompson’s imminent return when he moved Jordan Poole to the bench for Saturday’s contest against Utah. As for the other missing Warriors, James Wiseman’s return to full-contact practices was delayed by his going into the COVID health and safety protocols on Wednesday. Damion Lee is also out of the protocols for tonight’s game, giving the Warriors their full rotation (minus Klay, of course).
Sunday’s game features a visit from the resurgent Cleveland Cavaliers, currently 5th in the Eastern Conference with a 21-16 record. For his career, Klay has averaged 18.8 points and just over three three-pointers per game in the regular season against the Cavs, and in the playoffs, he has a 75% championship percentage against Cleveland.