Klay Thompson is back, but different
With a couple of severe injuries in the rearview, Thompson and Warriors cross into new era
Change is important. Like a tree dropping old branches so the new ones can reach the sunshine, there’s a strong shift coming to the Golden State Warriors. Maybe it’s just because I’m going through a job change for the first time in over a decade (not here, don’t fret, HQ!) - or maybe it’s Klay Thompson’s earnestly philosophical moments that are becoming more and more frequent - but it seems to me that this will be a new season in more than just the literal sense.
Thompson, who has yet to appear in the preseason, will fully join the team for today’s practice and is slated to take part in the team’s final dress rehearsal game tomorrow.
So let’s take a look at some of the changes in Thompson’s game coming into this season, and what that means against the backdrop of a veteran team with a strong contingent of younger players looking to rise up the ranks.
A gentle re-entry, an important season
Thompson didn’t play in any of the Warriors’ first preseason games. Though he did participate in a short shooting contest (where he and Stephen Curry trounced Moses Moody and Jordan Poole), Thompson is being held out for precautionary reasons that extend beyond the entirely physical realm.
It’s hard to say how much of this quirk is associated with his self-identified mental block, and how much of it stems from a short offseason backed up against an intense couple of months for his recovering body. One way or another though, Thompson only recently scrimmaged with the Warriors.
“I didn’t play a lot this summer. It was hard to. Especially what I went through the last summer I was healthy, popping my Achilles. It was really hard for me to get out there. Just mentally, it was hard.
It’s hard to explain, it’s like a mental block in a way.”
After being out for nearly a thousand days, Thompson still managed to average a solid 20.4 points per game, including an explosive seven 3-pointer performance with a season-high 41 points in the final regular season game. That game was cathartic, in that it proved a return to elite status for a player that has made a name for himself off his electric moments on the court - a court that he was away from for far too long.
“What I battled through, I’ll never take a 40-ball lightly again,” said Thompson, who after being sidelined for more than two seasons with knee and Achilles injuries, now heads into the playoffs having scored 30-plus in three straight games.
“That’s hard to do in the NBA,” Thompson continued. “I don’t care who’s guarding you, who’s playing, 40 points is 40 points and that was a sweet night for myself.”
Though his initial re-entry was plagued with spotty performances, Klay fittingly shot through it all to emerge as a key player in the Warriors’ title chase. Thompson is still hungry for more:
“I’m hungry as ever still because I still remember those two years I had to watch. I’m eager to play a full season and show people what I’m capable of again.”
Thompson will never fully put that 941-day injury hiatus out of his memory completely, but it is nice to have some additional time and perspective to put it further back in his rearview.
Same Klay, different day
One thing that Thompson has managed to maintain is his elite outside shooting touch. Though it was a little touch and go there when he first returned, the end results was very much in line with his historical accuracy from deep. Because I’m a visual learner, I put it all into a table using the stats from bball reference.
Of course, there’s more to basketball than just making a bunch of threes - even if you’re Klay Thompson. Though he came back looking noticeably stiffer and a bit slower, by the time the playoffs rolled around, Thompson was making plays that harkened back to the halcyon pre-injury days. With another full offseason under his belt, the hope is that some of that footspeed (what there was of it) comes back this year.
As they continue to do with fellow veteran, Andre Iguodala, the Warriors are being very cautious regarding with Thompson’s return. He will continue to ramp up with an eye on the opening of the regular season on Tuesday. For now though, it will just be nice to see him back on the court tomorrow.