There has been some hope that Klay Thompson would suit up for the Golden State Warriors this season after tearing his ACL on June 13 during Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has snuffed most of that out. In an interview with Logan Murdock of NBC Sports Bay Area, Kerr said "it's unlikely that he's going to play this year.”
While the All-Star break in February had been given as a target for Thompson’s return (and Thompson’s father Mychal had suggested mid-March as a possible date), that seems shockingly optimistic given the 11-12 month recovery time that’s common for NBA players returning from an ACL tear. Returning in February would give Thompson just seven months to recover from his July surgery. Players like Zach LaVine and Jabari Parker needed nearly a year to fully recover.
Kerr saying it’s “unlikely” that Thompson will play this season does leave room for him to beat the recovery odds, but Kerr isn’t betting on it. He also essentially ruled out an April return for Thompson, which would have him playing his first games of the season right before or during the playoffs.
"You have to look at it realistically. 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.
"We have to prepare our young guys to fill that role behind him, and when he gets back, whenever that is, hopefully these young guys now are developed and in the rotation and ready to really be contributors on a playoff team and we can get better."
It already seems like Kerr is planning for Thompson to return during the 2020-2021 NBA season, which makes nobody happy — least of all Thompson. Kerr told NBC Sports that Thompson has been around the team more lately, but he’s missing basketball something fierce.
"He's bored. I mean, Klay loves basketball, he loves to play, so he's at the point in his rehab, three-plus months in, where his knee feels pretty good. He's not in pain. He can get out there and shoot around, but he's got to let it heal, and he can't run, he can't cut. So we'll see him in the weight room, in the training room, getting his work in.
“But I feel bad for him. You never feel part of it unless you're actually playing and with the guys, and he misses that."
Thompson’s dad Mychal, himself a former NBA player, gave his son some advice for getting through what’s likely to be one of the toughest seasons of his career. Via NBC Sports:
"It's tough. I told him it's gonna be tough. He's an ultimate competitor. He wants to play. He has so much fun playing for the Warriors and being around the game that he loves.
"I told him it's gonna be a tough mental grind. You got to keep yourself busy — be around the team, get on the air sometimes with [Bob] Fitzgerald and Kelenna [Azubuike]. Call a game sometimes, they'll be happy to have you call the game.
"Be on the bench and help coach, try to come up with some other business interests. That's what you have to do. You have to keep yourself mentally busy otherwise you'll go crazy because you miss it so much."
Kerr walks back comments: ‘We’ll leave the door open’
Kerr clarified his comments on Tuesday afternoon, insisting that he wasn’t making an announcement of any kind when he said it was “unlikely” that Thompson would return this season.
In his mind, he was just being realistic.
“My comment was very matter of fact. It’s just ACL’s, generally. they take 9-12 months,” Kerr said, via ESPN. “So nine months take us right to the end of the season. So I wasn’t announcing anything, he’s doing great in his rehab.”
Depending on how his recovery goes, Kerr said there is still a possibility that Kerr sees the floor this season after all.
However his initial comments, Kerr said, simply weren’t meant to be taken as fact.
“I probably opened up a can of worms yesterday with that comment ... but it’s really not news,” Kerr said, via ESPN. “It’s more reality. We’ll leave the door open and we’ll see what happens at the end of the year, but Klay’s doing great.”
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