In an encouraging sign for the Warriors, Klay Thompson was cleared for 5-on-5 practices this week. He played Monday and again Wednesday, and is “progressing really well,” according to head coach Steve Kerr.
But what does 5-on-5 work really mean? Golden State general manager and president of basketball operations Bob Myers explained.
“It’s the last step,” Myers said on Papa & Lund. “There will be days where he does a couple in a row, sometimes one off, one on. Probably go to Santa Cruz and get some work there. The hard part is finding NBA guys on our team to do it because you’re not going to drag Steph and Draymond out there to scrimmage.”
Myers said when Thompson gets even closer to being ready to return, it could be valuable to mix in some reps with Curry and Green. Though the familiarity is there, the trio hasn’t played together since the 2019 Finals.
And although 5-on-5 is the last step in Thompson’s rehab process, there’s still no exact expectation for his return. That’ll depend on how Thompson’s body responds. Same goes for forward James Wiseman, who has yet to be cleared for full scrimmages.
“We’re not going to rush either guys,” Myers said. “That’s not smart. And we’re not hiding a date from you either.”
There has been some information leaked about when Thompson could suit up again, though. One report pegged the week of Thanksgiving as the target. Another predicted before Christmas.
Myers called reports “speculation,” but did say after talking with Thompson and head coach Steve Kerr, they want Thompson’s first game to be at home in the Chase Center.
“We all want to do it at home,” Myers said. “But it’ll be when it is. But he’s going to have to play. If he feels great, a month from now, it might be sooner. If he doesn’t, it could take longer if it’s an endurance thing. Same with James. But when you start playing, you’re on the precipice of kind of going live, doing a long scrimmage, it means you’re close. And that feels good for him and everyone in the organization.”
Whenever Thompson returns, all eyes will be fixed on how he looks. Thompson has been one of the NBA’s premier two-way wings since entering the league in 2011. But back to back serious injuries — an ACL and Achilles tear — have held him out for over two full seasons.
The game now is even different than the one Thompson last played in. Players take even more 3s and officials now call fewer fouls on the perimeter — both factors which could benefit Thompson, a legendary shooter and physical defender.
Curry is averaging 13.5 3-point attempts per game, a number that feels right to Myers. Thompson has never attempted more than 8.3 per game.
Reintegrating Thompson into the fold too may be tough. Golden State has jumped out to an NBA-best 12-2 record and boasts the most efficient defense in the league. It may take time for Thompson to get up to NBA speed and trust his body enough to reach his defensive potential, Myers said.
But the five-time All-Star is coming, and the Warriors — despite an impressive start — need him to achieve their ultimate goal.
“I think we need his offense more than we need his defense,” Myers said. “We need that shooting. Specifically, if you look at the losses, it’s the last six minutes of a halfcourt basketball game: what are we doing? That’s where he really helps us. Having a guy that can take tough shots in small spaces. He’s got great size. Obviously we don’t need to talk about how good his shooting is. He provides you with a weapon in the halfcourt. That’s the part we’re missing in some respects. It’s not that (Andrew) Wiggins can’t do it, it’s not that Jordan (Poole) can’t do it. Those guys haven’t done it to the degree Klay has done it.
In those moments. What separates the great from the good is they do it when it matters most. Klay has already done it. It’s like a hitter in a clutch moment or a quarterback in the fourth quarter. Klay is that guy. And those guys are invaluable. If we want to do anything this year and play deep, we have to have that part of Klay.”
For Myer’s full conversation that ranged from how he found out Thompson tore his Achilles, contextualizing Steph Curry’s greatness, and his thoughts on Golden State’s hot start, check out the Papa & Lund Podcast.
Catch Papa & Lund weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on KNBR 104.5 / 680 and streaming live on KNBR.com.