Every discussion of how the Golden State Warriors will do this season has dealt, primarily, with three things. The first is excitement over Steph Curry possibly returning to MVP form with Kevin Durant leaving. After taking a lesser role for the good of the team, Curry will now have to return to being a high-usage offensive player for the Warriors to have much of any chance at continuing their run of Finals appearances.
The second is the question of depth, as they lost far more than just Durant this offseason. There are major questions in the frontcourt as to what the rotation will look like beyond Draymond Green and Kevon Looney, as well as on the wing where the small forward position is a massive question mark in a world without Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. The addition of D’Angelo Russell bolsters their backcourt, but he has to come in and immediately take on a secondary scorers role because of the third thing, which is Klay Thompson’s recovery from a torn ACL.
The expectation from most around the NBA has been that Thompson, who is notorious for playing through pain and having a shorter recovery time from injury than most, would be back at some point after the All-Star break, as that would be eight months since his injury. No one would be surprised to see the Warriors be cautious with him, but the question has been “how many games does Klay play,” not “will he play at all?”
As it turns out, the latter is something we should’ve been asking according to Steve Kerr, who told NBC Sports Bay Area that it’s “unlikely” Thompson plays this season, and the Warriors “have to understand that.”
“You have to look at it realistically,” the Warriors coach 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. … April versus nine months post-op for an ACL.”
Because of how Klay has recovered from injuries in the past — none of which as severe as an ACL tear — it was just sort of assumed he’d return on the earlier end of the recovery timetable for ACL injuries. This statement from Kerr is probably smart to remove that pressure of “when will Klay return” and instead make it a bonus, not the expectation, should he be cleared by doctors and be able to return to the court.
Given all the criticism the Warriors received for the handling of Kevin Durant’s calf injury last year prior to his Achilles tear in the Finals, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that Kerr would make this kind of public statement to ensure it’s known that the Warriors are preparing to give Klay all the time possible to recover. If that indeed is the case and Thompson sits out the year, it would certainly change projections of the Warriors this season and that’s a scenario we all need to consider as a legitimate possibility.