The 2019 NBA Finals marked the end of one of the most dominant runs in basketball history.
During the series between the Raptors and Warriors, Golden State saw Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both go down with season-ending injuries. Durant suffered a torn Achilles in Game 5, and Thompson was forced to leave Game 6 after suffering a torn ACL. Despite the best efforts of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and the rest of the Warriors, the team was unable to overcome those losses and ultimately lost to Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors.
Durant joined the Nets during the 2019 offseason and has re-established himself as one of the top players in the league. Unfortunately for Thompson, his return has was delayed by another significant injury. The Warriors have been terrific without him this season, but it’s clear that Steve Kerr’s squad wants nothing more than to see a healthy Thompson back on the floor.
The good news for Golden State? After walking down a long road to recovery, Thompson appears to be closing in on the finish line.
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Klay Thompson injury timeline
— June 13, 2019: During the third quarter of Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, Thompson attempts to dunk the ball on a fast break, gets fouled by Danny Green and lands awkwardly with all of his weight on his left leg. He immediately reaches for his left knee and is seen screaming in pain. He manages to shoot his free throws, but he is then subbed out in order to be evaluated by the team’s medical staff. The Raptors go on to win the game, capturing their first championship in franchise history.
— June 14, 2019: The Warriors announce that Thompson underwent an MRI following Game 6. The MRI confirmed that Thompson had suffered a torn left ACL.
— July 1, 2019: Thompson agrees to a five-year, $190 million deal with the Warriors, according to multiple reports. In an Instagram post, Thompson declares that there was “never a doubt” that he would re-sign with Golden State.
— Sept. 30, 2019: Warriors general manager Bob Myers rules Thompson out until at least the 2020 All-Star break.
“He’s doing fine,” Myers said. “We’ll have another update on him probably around the All-Star break. Don’t construe that as if we think he’ll be back by the All-Star break — that just means we’ll have an update then.”
— Oct. 22, 2019: Warriors coach Steve Kerr tells NBC Sports Bay Area’s Logan Murdock that it is “unlikely” Thompson will play during the 2019-20 season.
“You have to look at it realistically,” Kerr said. “I had an ACL [tear] in college, and I missed a whole season. Generally, an ACL for a basketball player is a full-year recovery, and if it’s a full year for Klay, that puts them out for the season. We’ve kind of left the door open in case the rehab goes perfectly and the doctors say he can go. But the reality is, on April 1, that’s the nine-month mark.”
— Feb. 20, 2020: The Warriors announce that Thompson is “making good progress” in his rehabilitation, but he will not play for the rest of the 2019-20 season. Golden State adds that Thompson is expected to be available for the team’s training camp.
— Nov. 18, 2020: The Warriors announce that Thompson suffered a leg injury during an offseason workout in Southern California. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski later reports that Thompson suffered a torn Achilles.
— Nov. 25, 2020: The Warriors confirm that Thompson suffered a torn right Achilles and underwent successful surgery in Los Angeles. Golden State notes that he is expected to miss the entire 2020-21 season.
— Aug. 20, 2021: During an episode of “The Jump,” ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reports that the Warriors are targeting the team’s Christmas Day game against the Suns for Thompson’s return. That would mark 13 months since his Achilles surgery.
“A lot of this is conditioning,” Shelburne said. “He’s doing well in his rehab, but he’s missed two seasons in a row now. So you don’t bring him back [too early]. This is a conservative target. If he does well and his conditioning is up and he feels like he wants to come back earlier, he will. But this is a conservative target of Christmas Day because you need time to build your conditioning back up when you miss two NBA seasons.”
— Nov. 16, 2021: On the “Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective” podcast, ESPN’s Nick Friedell says that Thompson could return before Christmas Day. Friedell believes that Thompson could be back in the rotation for either the Dec. 20 game against the Kings or the Dec. 23 game against the Grizzlies, both of which are at home.
“I would be surprised if it’s not one of those home games, unless there’s some kind of setback in the next month, which we know with those kind of injuries [could happen],” Friedell said. “They have a couple games just before Christmas, and then I believe it’s a Denver game at home just after Christmas. I’d be surprised if Klay isn’t back in one of those because it just feels like, in the brief glances that we’ve gotten of him working out… he looks like himself.”
— Nov. 28, 2021: The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports that Thompson has been assigned to the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State’s G League affiliate, for increased practice reps. That built on a report from Friedell, who notes that Thompson was participating in full-team practices for the first time since tearing his Achilles.
— Dec. 3, 2021: Thompson takes to Instagram Live, telling his followers that he hopes to be back “in the next few weeks” or “maybe a month,” per Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. That timeline aligns with previous reports indicating that his return could come around Christmas Day.
— Dec. 16, 2021: The Athletic’s Anthony Slater and Charania report that the earliest possible return date for Thompson is Dec. 28, as he is still ramping up his conditioning.
— Dec. 17, 2021: Wojnarowski reports that the Warriors are targeting an early January date for Thompson’s return. Golden State is considering Jan. 9 (vs. Cavaliers) and Jan. 18 (vs. Pistons) as potential return dates. A Jan. 3 return against the Heat has not yet been ruled out, but it is unlikely Thompson will be back on the floor for that contest.
— Jan. 3, 2022: Wojnarowski reports that there is “optimism” Thompson will be able to make his season debut against the Cavaliers on Jan. 9.
Warriors upcoming schedule 2021-22
Thompson told reporters on Dec. 31 that he would like to make his return at the Chase Center. The Warriors next play at home on Jan. 9 against the Cavaliers. They will then go on a four-game road trip from Jan. 11-16.
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