Kevin Durant is gone. Ditto for Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, DeMarcus Cousins, Quinn Cook, Jonas Jerebko and Jordan Bell. For all intents and purposes, the Warriors are considering Klay Thompson gone until the All-Star guard returns from a torn ACL suffered in the 2019 Finals.
That’s an avalanche of turnover for a former champion built and sustained on continuity. Warriors coach Steve Kerr knows this, and admitted to The Athletic that next week’s training camp will be the “most important” he has run since his rookie season (2014-15).
“This year, it’s totally different. Nobody really knows each other that well. We’re really going to have to examine our team in camp, the exhibition season, early in the season. Figure out the best way to play on both ends. We have some ideas and we’re going to really push them hard in camp. Camp will be critical.”
Most of it will no doubt re-center around superstar guard Stephen Curry, whom The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor believes should be favored to win his third Kia Most Valuable Player award. With Durant in Brooklyn and Thompson sidelined, Curry would appear primed to shoulder the kind of offensive season the league has not seen since 2015-16.
An interview with Steve Kerr on a ton of topics in advance of what he calls the Warriors ‘most important’ training camp since 2014 https://t.co/Ir062Sxx8I
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) September 23, 2019
At least one major reinforcement arrived in the form of D’Angelo Russell. The 23-year-old guard earned his first All-Star appearance last season in Brooklyn, and was acquired in the sign-and-trade deal that sent Durant to the Nets.
Yet it is impossible to judge the new-look Warriors’ ceiling until Thompson returns. The five-time All-Star is itching to join his fellow Splash Brother, even — perhaps especially — after the most significant setback of his career. Thompson suffered his knee injury in Game 6 against Toronto, an event that overshadowed the 30 points in 32 minutes that preceded it.
“I felt like I was just, like, as close to unstoppable as I’ve ever been.”
— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) September 23, 2019
“I felt like the best version I’ve ever felt of myself in that NBA Finals,” Thompson told The Athletic. “I kid you not.”
Yet Thompson’s injury is no kidding matter. He is all too aware of the long road ahead — and how little of it lies behind him. Yet even as he acknowledges the challenge, Thompson expresses no doubt of overcoming it.
“My mindset, though, I’m still in like the grassroots stages of rehab. So it’s, like, hard to envision even, like, running. I’ll watch games on Hardwood Classic and it’s like, ‘Damn. I was able to do that?’ because of my knee right now. But I’ll get back. I’ll be even better. I really believe that. I’ve never been more motivated.”