After pulling his Anterior Cruciate Ligament in Game 6 of the 2019 Finals and tearing his Achilles tendon just before the start of of the 2020-21 season, Klay Thompson has yet to feature in a NBA basketball game in over two-and-a-half years. That could change very soon. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi, there is optimism that Thompson could return this coming Sunday (January 9), at home, against the Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s not official. Wojnarowski notes that a final decision is expected once the Warriors return from their road trip on Friday.
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
With Kyrie Irving reportedly expected to make his season debut for the Nets on Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers, this marks two contender teams getting two All-Stars back in the lineup. The Warriors, for all the success they have had this season, could not be adding Thompson at a better time. MORE IMPACTFUL RETURN: KLAY OR KYRIE? When healthy, Kyrie’s playmaking ability is off the hinges. He is arguably one of the best ball handlers in the NBA who averages 27 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists per game. His 54 percent shooting average could be better though, but the quality he brings to the court can not be over emphasized. That said, I am somewhat skeptical per the consistency and effect of his inclusion to the Nets team, given the COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate in the State of New York which prevented him from playing since the current season began October 19, 2021. Featuring only on the road and in select games, depending on the health and safety protocol prevalent in State of the home team, Kyrie’s return just might disrupt team chemistry and alter cohesion, however well intentioned his artistry might seem. The Golden State Warriors did not begin the 2021/22 season as outright favorites to clinch the title, but close to three months after, the Dubs have managed to change the narrative by posting the best record in the league with a 29-7 record following their 115-108 win over the Miami Heat last night.
DUB 😎 pic.twitter.com/Pfqf7SpXOd — 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) January 4, 2022
ANSWERING THE “IMPACT” QUESTION The imminent return of the other half of the Splash Brothers is good news but the most commendable part about the Dub’s impressive run is that they have achieved the feat without the services of Klay Thompson. The Warriors are carving a winning path, and they are doing it without the five-time All-Star who was one of the NBA’s top two-way players. There is comfort in that. There is more comfort in knowing they are creeping closer to the day he re-enters the starting lineup, hopefully on January 9, against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Be that as it may, the Warriors have just the 20th-ranked offense since December 1, and Stephen Curry is having not one of the best shooting season of his career, percentage-wise, (40 percent from 3, 43 percent from the field), meaning that having back a proven shooter Klay could potentially help the Dubs boost their offensive ratings in a jiffy. That said, one has no idea how long it will take for him to shake off game rustiness, get his mojo back, let alone his complete basketball rhythm, and who knows if physically he will ever be quite the same. This is especially uncertain on the defensive end. Thompson, we know can shoot effortlessly, and as long as he can do that, defenses are not going to be able to focus on Curry quite as heavily has they have been. It is going to be a different ballgame blitzing Curry with two defenders when it allows for a 4-on-3 advantage with Draymond Green at the helm and Thompson spotting up.
AND WHEN HE DOES FINALLY RETURNS It promises to be quite a moment when Thompson finally returns in front of his home fans, He is well loved in the Bay Area and in the league as a whole. One would be hard pressed to find a more popular player among his NBA peers. Everyone, even the teams competing against Golden State for a title, is going to be happy to see Klay back on the court. What remains to be seen is how Thompson’s return will affect rotation, but working a future Hall of Famer into the line-up will be a nice problem for Steve Kerr to have. The coach has already said Thompson will be in the starting lineup immediately upon his return, which moves Jordan Poole to the sixth man role. Poole is a tailor-made sixth-man and a scorer off the bench. As for the other missing Warriors, James Wiseman’s comeback to full-contact practices was delayed by his admission into the COVID health and safety protocols last week. Damion Lee is also out of the protocols for last night’s game against the Heat, giving the Warriors their full rotation (minus Klay, of course).