NEW YORK CITY — Despite anticipation that Klay Thompson could be ready to make his long-awaited return when the Warriors get home from their current road trip, the team will reportedly have to wait a little longer.
The earliest date of Thompson’s first game back from a 30-month injury absence has been pushed back to Dec. 28, according to a report Thursday by The Athletic’s Shams Charania. While the Warriors have not publicly set a timeline for their star’s return to the court, it was previously reported that it could come in the week before their Christmas Day showdown in Phoenix.
At approximately the same time that Thursday’s report was published, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was addressing the media following practice before Golden State departed for Boston on the penultimate leg of its five-game road trip.
Kerr said that he is in daily communication with Dr. Rick Celebrini and the Warriors training staff, who remained in the Bay Area to work with Thompson and James Wiseman, but that there was nothing new to share.
“I talk to Rick pretty much every day. They were all in Santa Cruz yesterday. They’re getting their work in,” Kerr said, but he was not able to say the longest Thompson was able to run in his scrimmages.
Thompson, who tore his right Achilles while rehabbing from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) he suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals, has spent the majority of the Warriors’ past two road trips practicing with the G League squad in Santa Cruz. He has fully healed from both injuries. All that’s left is to get back in game shape.
Since being cleared as a full participant in practice, Thompson has been playing five-on-five, starting in stints of 4 minutes and eventually ramping up to playing 12 minutes at a time, the equivalent of a full quarter of basketball.
“I think he’s looked awesome. To me, he’s ready to go,” said Leandro Barbosa, a Warriors player mentor coach who was scrimmaging with Thompson on Golden State’s past road trip but traveled with the team on the current one. “So far, so good. I’m very impressed with what he’s been doing. He’s a little slow, but even with the slow pace of the way he plays, he’s still really good. I try to do my best. I try to keep up with him. I also try to be really, really fast and quick so that he can bring back that explosiveness on both legs, especially when we play one-on-one, and he’s been doing great.”
If Thompson doesn’t return for either of the Warriors’ two games before Christmas — Dec. 20 vs. Sacramento and Dec. 23 vs. Memphis — that would mean they’ll face their top competition in the Western Conference for a third time without the reinforcements of Thompson’s return.
Warriors brass has committed to bringing back Thompson in front of the home crowd at Chase Center. Golden State travels to Phoenix for a Christmas Day game against the Suns, then returns home to face the Nuggets on Dec. 28.
If Thompson isn’t able to return by Dec. 28, it would have to wait until Jan. 3 for it to come at home. After that, the Warriors only have one more home game until Jan. 18.
On the opposite side of the country, the Warriors have been able to disengage from the anticipation of Thompson eventually rejoining them. They are reminded of his progress every time they come home, though, Draymond Green said.
“When you see him everyday, he looks good,” Green said. “So when you see him everyday, you’re like, ‘Oh, man, Klay looked good. You see Klay?’ So not being around him definitely helps. But the reality is you’re not around him for seven days and then you come back and he looks even better than he did a week ago. Then you’re back to like, ‘Oh, man.’ So I try to stay away from it.”
Green, who has never missed more than six consecutive games, said nevertheless he understands that the anticipation Thompson only makes the final steps of a long rehab process all the more difficult, so the team tries not to add to it.
“You start to feel the pressure of anticipation of everybody else around you in a circle when that starts to mount up. The reality is I don’t think he should feel that. I don’t think that’s fair to him,” Green said. “He may not be ready tomorrow, mentally. His body may be great, but is he ready tomorrow mentally? He could not be. So I don’t want him to feel that anxiety and that pressure that I know comes with it when everybody’s looking, like, ‘Hey Klay, you about to be back yet?’”