When the Warriors went on their four-game road trip to the East Coast last week, Klay Thompson and James Wiseman stayed in the Bay Area to continue their respective rehabs. Thompson hit a major milestone by playing in 5-on-5 scrimmages last week before rejoining his teammates for full-contact practice.
Thompson spoke to reporters at length Tuesday about his much anticipated return following 29-plus months away from NBA game action. The shooting guard is expected to return in late December, as he ramps up his conditioning after suffering ACL and Achilles injuries in consecutive seasons.
“It’s so exciting just to be running up and down the court and playing basketball,” Thompson said. “It’s truly a blessing and makes coming to work so easy. The boring stuff’s behind me and now I’m just getting back into game shape. It’s really exciting. I gotta stay patient because I can be an over-eager person to get out there and play, but I’m just incredibly grateful to be out there. All the work the training staff and I have done over the last two years is really paying off. It’s hard to put into words how grateful I am to be playing basketball again.”
Thompson said he is playing four-minute quarters this week, and his goal is to ramp it up to five-minute quarters next week. Eventually he’ll progress to 12-minute quarters as he gets closer to NBA action.
“When I’m approaching game play is around a month’s time, maybe a few weeks after, I’m not sure,” Thompson said. “Each week is just increasing that level of volume.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr reiterated that Thompson’s conditioning following two-plus years away from an NBA game will be key to his return.
“It just takes time, it takes a while,” Kerr said Tuesday. “Even though he’s playing full-bore and he practiced full-bore just now, he needs to keep doing this over and over and over again, every day. Really blow it out, get his conditioning back, his endurance back. We’re going to be very patient with Klay.”
While noting that both of his previous injuries were something of “freak accidents,” Thompson said he doesn’t “fear getting hurt again.” That’s great news considering Thompson admitted the mental side of the rehab has been tougher than the physical side.
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When it comes to his hooping, Thompson also gave a self-assessment of how he feels on the floor.
“I feel like myself,” Thompson said. “I feel great. Knocking shots down. I’m playing defense. The hardest part is simulating a game and that conditioning that goes with being a great NBA player. It’s hard, but it’s definitely a thing that takes time.”
Warriors forward Kevon Looney said Thompson has added a huge boost to the team. Looney said Thompson looks like his old self, cutting off the ball as he tries to get open.
“He’s right there so close near the finish line,” Looney said. “He’s been locked in and he’s motivating all of us.”