SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — In due time, Klay Thompson is counting on more 37-point quarters and other scoring outbursts from himself, like the time he made 14 3-pointers in a game.
Not that the Golden State Warriors star is “a numbers guy” the way he used to be, before a pair of devastating injuries.
“I plan on doing that again, but who knows when? It’s tough to say,” Thompson said.
He has resumed five-on-five, full-court scrimmaging in a key step as he makes his comeback from surgery last November for a torn right Achilles tendon following a season sidelined after having the ACL in his left knee repaired.
“It’s hard to put into words how grateful I am to be playing basketball again,” Thompson said after practicing at full speed Tuesday. “I feel like myself. I feel great. I’m knocking shots down, I’m playing great D … I’m playing defense. The hardest part is just simulating a game and that conditioning that goes with being a great NBA player. It’s hard, and it’s definitely a thing that takes time.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said the team will have a better idea in a few weeks as to when Thompson might be ready to play again, and Stephen Curry’s Splash Brother is still hopeful that will be in the season’s first half. He realizes there will be a minutes restriction initially.
“He’s in a great frame of mind,” Kerr said. “The biggest thing is he hasn’t played in 2 1/2 years. While the Achilles is structurally sound, everything is strong, there’s been on ill effects, it’s just a matter of building his strength and endurance, especially the endurance part. It just takes time, it takes a while.”
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Thompson said for now, he plays in four-minute bursts and will increase that volume to five minutes, then six and seven over the coming weeks — and “hopefully in a month I’m playing 12-minute quarters and that’s when I’m approaching game play.”
The patience will be worth it, Thompson knows, for him to return to top form.
“I don’t want to come back and be a shell of myself, I want to come back like I was last time I was playing, and I was one of the best players in the world,” Thompson said.
The 31-year-old Thompson didn’t play at all during the coronavirus-shortened season as he worked back from knee surgery in July 2019 after he was hurt in the deciding Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors.
Then in November 2020, he injured the Achilles tendon playing in a pickup game in Southern California.
Now, he insists, “it’s championship or bust” for the 15-2 Warriors.
“And I’m not even out there yet, think about that, really think about that,” he said, emphatically putting his left hand to the podium to make his point. “I’m more motivated than ever as well. I want a championship so bad, more than anything.”
Kerr realizes how much it means to Thompson, saying, “Klay is just so happy to be out there playing and competing.”
“It’s truly a blessing and it makes coming to work so easy. The boring stuff’s behind me,” Thompson said, “Now I’m just getting back in game shape. It’s really exciting and I’ve got to stay patient because I can be an over eager person to get out there and play. But I’m just incredibly grateful to be out there.”