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Klay Thompson hoping for early season return, pulls back curtain on Achilles injury, rehab

There are no pressers like Klay Thompson pressers. The man is a borderline philosopher, firing off introspective, ethereal takes on life, pain and rehab in the most genuine and always hilarious way. He spoke to reporters for the first time this season before the Warriors’ game against the Utah Jazz on Sunday.

The first question, of course, was about the moment Thompson tore his Achilles.

“Yeah man, thanks for reminding me,” he said, before laughing about a “very painful” moment in both a literal and larger, figurative sense.

Thompson is now out of a walking boot, back to light strengthening exercises: calf raises, mobility and balance stretches, etc. He hasn’t yet progressed to running, but he said he’s been doing so on underwater treadmills which he deemed “good for my psyche.”

His target date for a return isn’t certain. When asked if opening night of next season made sense, he answered affirmatively, but also gave a broader timeline.

“It could be a few weeks after, maybe a month after, but it’s definitely going to be geared toward the very beginning of the season,” Thompson said.

He categorized 2020 as the worst year of his life, citing the pandemic, social upheaval, the death of his grandmother, Mary, and Kobe and Gigi Bryant, and tearing his Achilles after working 10 months to recover from a torn ACL.

That process of rehabbing for a second time, he said, left doubts.

“The mental toll is not very fun,” Thompson said. “You always guess if you’re gonna be the same player you once were. So you have those natural thoughts, but you can’t let those overtake you.

“And you got to realize that every athlete, this is not unique just to me; so many athletes have been through this. And although I was used to playing 100 games a year for the first eight years of my career, this is just a new set of challenges. And with my style of play, I feel like I can be effective till my late 30s. So I’m not going to feel sorry for myself right now. And I’m just gonna keep buckling down and trying to get back to doing what I love to do.”

But in typical Klay Thompson fashion, there was such a unique brand of optimism. He recounted the myriad realizations he said he’s had and ways he kept occupied.

He said it dawned on him before his injury that “all my hobbies revolve around me being athletic.” That led Thompson to pursue other avenues to support his creativity, including reading books, watching movies and playing chess. He said his inspiration during this time away has come from Dominique Wilkins, who was the first NBA player to successfully return from a torn Achilles, and inspirational speaker Tony Robbins.

“The human body can give out on you, but your soul is forever,” Thompson recollected.

Oh, and he went swimming in the Bay for the first time in his life, sparked by conversations with prolific swimmer and Bay Area sportwriter for the Associated Press, Janie McCauley.

Thompson said he has realistic expectations for himself in the short-term when he returns. He doesn’t expect to be the iron man guy he was before the back-to-back devastating injuries, at least not immediately. But he promised that he would get back to where he was as a player.

“I’ll be honest with you guys, I don’t expect to come back and just balls to the wall, 38 minutes a night, guarding the best player, running around 100 screens. I’m gonna get to that point,” Thompson said. “I guarantee that. But I’ve talked to [team trainer] Rick [Cellebrini] about a lot. It might be 20 minutes to start the season. 18 minutes, like a minutes restriction. We’ll see where I’m at.

“This is usually a 12-month process with the Achilles and that will take me to mid-November. So I’m not even sure. I just try to take it day by day. But I plan on being the All-NBA player I was. I will not settle for anything less. I’m too competitive to just take a relegated role. Ha, that’s not me. I’m too fiery just to come out there and just give you a 13 a game on 20 minutes. No, I’m going to go out there and I can’t wait man. I got a lot of pent-up energy. I got a lot of pent-up aggression. I just want to play basketball. So when that happens, it will be a joyous day for not only me but for everybody, including you guys.”


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