June 2019. That was the last time we saw Klay Thompson in an NBA game as the Golden State Warriors star limped off the floor in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
After missing an entire season and working his way back from the injury, he suffered another injury setback, tearing his right Achilles in an off-season workout, missing two full seasons.
As we enter the 2021-22 season, the five-time All-Star is nearing his return to the court, but the Warriors aren't going to rush him back after such a lengthy layoff.
Here's what we know so far.
When is Klay Thompson back?
Thompson has been rehabbing his ACL injury throughout last season, giving fans glimpses of his progress, getting shots up before games.
Klay took some pregame shots at Chase Center today 🙌 pic.twitter.com/F4nzGr6P2Z- Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) March 14, 2021
With Achilles injuries typically requiring a 6-12 month recovery time, that would mean roughly a clean bill of health in November for Thompson and at this stage, the Warriors expect him to at least miss the first part of the new season, potentially not seeing the floor till early 2022.
"It's going to be a play-it-by-ear thing," head coach Steve Kerr said recently. "The main thing is he's progressing well, he's in a great frame of mind, in a really good place. It's exciting just to think about him coming back. All the players and coaches are excited, just to know he's on track is awesome.
"We'll just see where he is come training camp and trust the training staff to work with him and give us the advice that we need, and we'll go from there."
Thompson echoed that timeline when answering questions during an Instagram live session.
"I plan on ... hopefully early next season," Thompson said Friday when asked when he would return while doing Instagram Live from his boat. "I mean, the Achilles is like a 12-month recovery phase. But I also have to factor in my left knee because I don't want to come back and be half myself, you know what I'm saying? Recovery is going, through. It's slow. The Achilles is tedious."
Most recently, on Sept. 20, the Warriors provided another injury update on Thompson, stating, he has "made good progress during his rehabilitation over the course of the summer and is on pace to return during the 2021-22 season. The exact time for his return this season will be based on his continued progress. Thompson, who underwent surgery on his right Achilles on Nov. 25, 2020, is expected to participate in various controlled drills during training camp. His return to full practice will be determined at a later date."
ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported that the Warriors have set Christmas Day as a "conservative target" for Thompson to return to action, giving the 31-year-old time to work on his conditioning.
The Warriors did not share a specific timeline for Thompson's return on Media Day (Sep. 27). General Manager Bob Myers said Thompson could return "sometime maybe in December, maybe in January, I don't know when."
Thompson is yet to be cleared to scrimmage and has will participate in non-contact drills in training camp.
"If you were to watch Klay, certainly, at this point working out, if you didn't know, you'd say, 'Well, this guy looks like he can play now,'" Myers told reporters at Media day.
"But he hasn't played 5-on-5 in quite some time, so that's up to the training staff and it's up to the individuals to see when that's the right time to come back. But we'll tell you. I just don't have the exact answer to those questions yet."
Thompson's Injury timeline
Thompson's injury setback began in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors.
He suffered the injury as went up for a dunk on a fastbreak and landed awkwardly on his left leg after being fouled. He went back to the locker room but soon returned to shoot a pair of free throws - which he made both - before exiting the game for good. He was later ruled out for the contest and diagnosed with a torn ACL.
After working his way back from the ACL injury, Thompson suffered a second setback tearing his right Achilles during an off-season workout in November, just a month out from the beginning of the 2020-21 season.
Outlook for the Warriors
Since Thompson has been sidelined, the Warriors have struggled going 54-83 across the past two regular seasons, missing the playoffs both years after making five straight trips to the NBA Finals.
With Thompson back on deck this season alongside Steph Curry and Draymond Green, there's plenty of optimism in the Bay Area that they can return to the top four of the Western Conference, but a lot of that will hinge on what they get from their role players.
The strength of the previous Warriors teams was not only in their star players but a deep rotation that would maintain and extend leads. While they don't have that same firepower, they have brought in guys who can give them serviceable minutes, starting with former Finals MVP Andre Iguodala as well as Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica.
"I think this year's team will offer a much better mix of mentors and veterans to go along with those young guys," Kerr said to Monte Poole on the latest Dubs Talk podcast. "I think we'll have more continuity this coming season than we've had since our championship teams, and a much clearer sense of who's ready to play and who's not."
Last year's No.2 pick in the draft James Wiseman (20-years-old) had his rookie season interrupted with injuries and the Warriors will look to him to make a leap in year two as well as incoming rookies Jonathan Kuminga (18) and Moses Moody (19).
Thompson coming back doesn't automatically make them the Warriors of old again, but with some fresh faces coming in alongside one of the best three-man groups in the league, the Warriors will no doubt be back in the mix in 2021-22.
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