SAN FRANCISCO -- The Chase Center crowd floated in a state of euphoria Sunday night as Klay Thompson made his memorable comeback following two-and-half years of missed basketball. The fans were suspended in a mood of bewilderment for a few seconds, though, shortly after the game started.
Warriors center Kevon Looney barely jumped for the opening tip while facing Cleveland Cavaliers big man Jarrett Allen. And it was by design.
As Dub Nation ooh’d and aah’d at each of Thompson’s warmup shots during the pregame, it turns out Draymond Green quietly tweaked his calf. But he wasn’t going to miss Thompson’s comeback game.
Once Allen tipped the ball back to Darius Garland, Green gingerly jogged into the Cavs backcourt and got whistled for a foul. His stint was only seven seconds long, but Green technically shared the floor with Thompson, Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney as a starter.
“It was kind of out of the blue,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Green’s injury. “He scrimmaged [Saturday] and felt fine. Was so excited to play and then he went out for warmups and his pre-game shoot and he just felt a twinge in his calf. There was no way we were gonna risk playing him. He was devastated. He’s been looking forward to this as much as anybody.”
Fans gasped and wondered what was happening, before the PA man filled them in and they gave Green a big round of applause. Green is a basketball history buff who loves the game, so you know he appreciated his name being officially etched in the box score for Jan. 9, 2022 on Klay Day.
This season marks a decade of the Warriors’ power trio of Thompson, Green and Curry together as teammates. They’ve won three titles together, but Draymond and Steph had to watch as Klay grinded his way through grueling rehab from ACL and Achilles injuries over the past 31 months.
According to a recent story Green told NBC Sports Bay Area, he visited Thompson the day after he tore his ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals and won $4,000 from him playing dominoes. At 5 a.m. on Saturday, Klay’s final team workout before his return, Green was awake and posting about his excitement on Instagram. It’s beyond basketball for these two teammates at this point.
“I’ve seen what he’s been through the last two-and-a-half years,” Green said last week.
It might have been ceremonial, but Green’s gesture shouldn’t go overlooked. The fact Green’s season-long statistics will take a hit with an empty game was probably an afterthought.
“Draymond only cares about one thing, and that’s winning,” Thompson said. “He’s very selfless as a teammate and it just felt right to have him out there, even for a second. I appreciate him and I can’t wait to compete with him again.”
The Warriors didn't provide a timetable for Green's return, but they'll likely have to see how it responds over the coming days. Golden State has a grueling road trip on tap, against the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday, the Milwaukee Bucks Thursday and the Chicago Bulls Friday.