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Preview: Klay Thompson rejoins Warriors to battle old rival Cavaliers

Six reasons his return symbolizes the closing of one chapter in Warrior history and the beginning of the next.

Portland Trail Blazers v Golden State Warriors - Game Two Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors are getting Klay Thompson back Sunday at home in the Chase Center against their old rival the Cleveland Cavaliers. After two seasons lost due to Thompson’s back-to-back ACL and Achilles’ injuries, one of the greatest players in NBA history is ready to take the court once more.

This will be Thompson’s first game played in San Francisco, as his career was paused in the final game at Oracle Arena, Golden State’s old home across the Bay Bridge in the city of Oakland. He also joins a Warriors team that is battling for the #1 seed in the West and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs in the NBA, but have dropped the last two games as injuries mounted.

Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers

January 9th, 2022 | 5:30 PT

Watch: NBC Sports Bay Area | Listen: 95.7 The Game

Thompson’s return symbolizes the finality to many questions Dub Nation has been waiting on answers for, while the next chapter in Warriors history begins.

Closure for the Hamptons 5-era: everyone’s healthy yay

When the Dubs had arguably the greatest collection of talent in NBA history fall apart at the seams in the 2019 Finals, there was a sickening feeling of a missed opportunity for the fan base. More importantly, there was legitimate concern as to whether or not Kevin Durant (who tore his Achilles) and Thompson would ever return to being a semblance of the hardwood killers they once were.

Thankfully, we’ve seen Durant flourish in Brooklyn after taking a season off. He’s currently leading the NBA in scoring and the Eastern Conference in All-Star votes. Will Thompson regain his superpowers as well?

Cleveland deserves more punishment

Klay Thompson is a three-time champion. That’s more rings than Ray Allen and Reggie Miller combined. That’s as many rings as Larry Bird. That’s only one behind LeBron James. Two behind Kobe Bryant. And three behind (gasp) Michael Jordan!

All three of those rings have come at the expense of LeBron’s former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. How apropos for the Warriors to arrange for Thompson’s return to land on the only day Cleveland will play in Chase Center this regular season. What better way for Thompson to feel comfortable and dominant than against the team he’s seen vanquished on the world’s biggest stage?

GSW’s starting lineup is almost intact

Thompson’s injury prevented Golden State from having an ideal starting lineup over the last two-and-a-half seasons. This year that would be Stephen Curry (greatest player alive), Thompson, Andrew Wiggins (soon to be an All-Star), Draymond Green (an MVP candidate according to Utah Jazz Coach Quinn Snyder), and James Wiseman (#2 overall pick in 2020 draft).

The fact that the Warriors have the second best record in the NBA at 29-9 (and have beaten the first place Phoenix Suns 2 outta 3) is either an indictment of how weak the rest of the NBA is right now or a clear example of why Curry and Green may be the first teammates to force the NBA to honor co-MVP’s. Hyperbole? Perhaps. But if the Warriors are this good already, WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO BE WHEN THEY ADD A FUTURE HALL-OF-FAMER LIKE KLAY?

Take your time and ponder that while I put a spotlight on Wiggins Island.

Wiggins is now a supersized third option

Shout out to Andrew Wiggins for turning the conversation from “he’s overpaid and ruining Steph Curry’s prime!” to “are the Warriors wasting Wiggins’ prime by losing to the Mavs??”. He’s putting up career-high marks on all sorts of important metrics like “efficiency” and “swagger”.

He’s the team’s second leading scorer at 19.1 PPG and has done a quality job approximating some of Thompson’s impact in the Splash Bro’s absence.

Comparing the last season and-a-half of Wiggins’ Warriors’ work alongside Thompson’s career averages shows some similarities:

  • PPG: Thompson 19.5 / Wiggins 18.7
  • REB: Thompson 3.5 / Wiggins 4.8
  • AST: Thompson 2.3 / Wiggins 2.2
  • FG%: Thompson .459 / Wiggins .481
  • 3P%: Thompson .419 / Wiggins .395

Both guys are comfortable orbiting around Curry in Coach Steve Kerr’s egalitarian ecosystem, and both make the defense pay with efficiency. Defensively Thompson was Golden State’s guard dog, swarming the opponent’s top guards and wings. It remains to be seen if he can regain that ferocious defensive form, but in his stead Wiggins has emerged as an elite defender.

It’ll be mighty nice seeing these two flanking Curry and Green.

The Core 4 is whole

The Warriors dynasty started with Curry, Thompson, Green, and Andre Iguodala leading them. After a brief two-year stay in Miami, Iguodala has returned to the Dubs and is already bringing back some of that old dynastic mojo. When those four pioneers take the floor together, it will be the first time since Game 6 of the 2019 Finals that these Bay Area legends joined forces.

Did you know that if you start with their 2015 title run, the Core 4 have won 18 out of 20 playoff series, with both of their defeats coming in the NBA Finals? Scary.

The Splash Bros are back

The greatest backcourt in the history of the NBA is reunited. Monte Poole detailed the records they’ve broken in a piece for NBC Sports Sports Bay Area:

The Splash Brothers are two of the game’s prolific shooters from distance, and now own nearly every major 3-point shooting record after Curry broke Ray Allen’s all-time 3-point record Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

‘Nuff said. Unleash the Splash: it’s time.


Do you expect Cleveland to spoil Klay’s homecoming?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Yes, the Cavs are a tough team and the Warriors will have to reacclimate Klay
    (27 votes)
  • 91%
    (303 votes)
330 votes total Vote Now

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