Klay Thompson returns to the warriors

Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors has never been known as a jumper. He used to have a race competition with Zaza Pachulia, a f...


Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors has never been known as a jumper. He used to have a race competition with Zaza Pachulia, a former teammate, to see who could finish each season with the most dunks. As a down-to-earth athlete, Thompson knew his dunks were cause for celebration.

And that was before he missed the last two seasons and more with a pair of serious injuries.

On Sunday, after 941 days of absence, Thompson was back in uniform. His hair was longer and he had added a headband – which was part of a new branding born out of months of relative “loneliness,” he said – but he was characteristically fearless in front of a worshiping crowd at the Chase. San Francisco Center.

It was clear at the end of the second quarter, when he found himself guarded on the perimeter by Jarrett Allen, a 6-foot-10 cross for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Recognizing the shift, Thompson passed Allen with a cross dribble, accelerated to the hoop, then dunk on two other defenders.

“It felt so good to throw that out,” Thompson said. “I did not expect that.”

About an hour after Golden State’s 96-82 victory, Thompson sat on a dais during his press conference as he took a look at a box score. He checked his numbers: 17 points in 20 minutes, 7 of 18 shots from the field, 3 of 8 from the 3-point line. But his production was not important.

Not after tear of the anterior cruciate ligament of the left knee in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, then rupture of the right Achilles tendon before the start of last season. Not after missing so many games, enduring so many hours of physical therapy and spending so much time away from the field.

There were times, Thompson said, when he wondered if he would ever find his way home. Would its surgically repaired limbs have the same pop? Would he regain the meaning of the ball? Would his body withstand the rigors of rehabilitation?

Sunday, the joy was at the rendezvous and to see his name again, proof that the match has not deserted him.

“I’m proud of myself for persevering,” he said, adding, “It’s only from here.”

Thompson has long been one of the league’s most popular players – respected by opponents, revered by teammates, loved by fans. Three-time champion and five-time All-Star, he loves hoops, the ocean and his bulldog, Rocco. He’s reading the newspaper. He rides an electric bicycle. He sees himself as a concerned citizen, going so far as share your thoughts on faulty scaffolding with local journalists.

“Everyone connects with him,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, “because he’s just genuine. Klay is just Klay.

This is one of the reasons his absence was so disappointing. How long has Thompson been gone? The NBA has completed a pandemic season at Disney World. the the Los Angeles Lakers and milwaukee dollars won championships. The Warriors moved to a new arena, then pieced together their list after diving into league standings depths.

Thompson, meanwhile, was playing chess and bought a 37ft fishing boat. He signed a five-year contract extension worth around $ 190 million, determined to someday make Golden State’s investment profitable. He did cameos with the NBC Bay Area broadcast team, offering analysis of the game and updates on its progress.

“Just a little bored sometimes,” he said during a game last season.

Most of the time, however, he re-educated himself. Be empowered. And rehabilitated a little more, fighting the twin demons of self-doubt and impatience. In late November, after Golden State won another game without him, he draped a towel over his head as the arena emptied and sat alone on the bench for about half an hour. By then the way back had been too long and too difficult. His return was near, but not close enough.

“No one can know what he’s been through,” Kerr said ahead of Sunday’s game.

Still, Thompson’s familiar hunger was still there, lurking behind all those squats and sprints, and when he was left out of the league’s 75th anniversary squad this season, he expressed his dissatisfaction before putting on a No. 77 swimsuit for the following workouts. (A total of 76 players have been selected for the squad.)

At a press conference in November, Thompson alluded to the challenges he had faced in recovering from his injuries, describing many obstacles as more mental than physical, although he did not give details. .

“I try not to revisit those moments,” he said, adding: “I am lucky to play in the time that I play because technology and science have made it possible for athletes to come back. better than ever. “

He wanted to come back as the type of player who could provide a formidable defense. He wanted to come back as the type of player who could score 37 points in a single quarter. He wanted to come back as the type of player who could help his team make a deep playoff run. In other words, he didn’t want to come back until he was ready, like a shell of himself. They had who he once was, and who he could be again.

“He’s one of the best players in the world,” he said.

Golden State marked Sunday as #KlayDay. His teammates showed up in the arena wearing thompson sweaters. Fans have applauded Thompson every time he shot – during pre-game warm-ups. He relished being introduced as one of the team’s starters. He then made five field goal attempts in his first 4 minutes 23 seconds of playing time.

“He wasn’t shy, was he?” Kerr asked.

Thompson found his rhythm as the game progressed. He barked at the officials. He threw 3 points. He played against the crowd. And he flew for this dunk, which knocked his teammates off the bench.

“When Klay had perfect knees and an Achilles heel, I don’t remember him getting soaked like that,” Kevon Looney said.

“It was vicious,” Stephen Curry said.

In the process, the Warriors improved to 30-9, having have already reaffirmed themselves as contenders. Thompson may be back – a huge personal win – but he said he still has big goals. Why not run after another title? He now knows what is possible.



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