SAN FRANCISCO – Precisely five weeks into the season, the Warriors have the best record in the NBA and Klay Thompson, observing from the bench, has seen enough.
The Warriors, he believes, are back on the path of destruction.
“We are now the type of team where it’s championship or bust,” Thompson said after practice Tuesday. “And that’s a really cool position to be in. Not a lot of players get to experience that.”
Golden State’s bar was at the highest level for five consecutive seasons, from 2015 through 2019, which coincided with Thompson’s ascendance to All-Star status. The team won three championships over that span.
A torn left ACL during the 2019 NBA Finals against the Raptors knocked Klay out of the 2019-20 season, and a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon last November cost him the entire 2020-21 season and at least the first two months of this season.
With Klay now in the 30th month of his absence, the Warriors have not set a target date for his debut. He hopes to return in the first half of the season (early January) if not the “first trimester,” which ends in mid-December.
With molecules practically leaping off his body, it’s apparent Thompson is tired of waiting and beyond eager to rejoin his teammates and chase another title.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “We’re 15-2. That’s a great indicator. And our defense, which is top-three in the league, as well as our offense. And I’m not back yet. Think about that. Really think about that.
“I’m really more motivated than ever. I want a championship so bad. More than anything.”
Much of that motivation is Thompson’s desire to prove he can be the player he once was, a five-time All-Star that performed at an elite level at both ends of the court.
“No question. Nooo question. I wanted to be on that top . . . I wanted some recognition,” he said, a reference to his irritation over being left off the NBA’s 75th Anniversary team. “I didn’t get it, and that’s fine.
“You know how you get recognition? You go win. I just want to go win again. I want to win a fourth ring. Not being able to compete for the last two years, I feel like I have a lot of pent-up energy to out there and prove, not to anybody else, but to myself that I’m still one of the best.”
It's not as if Thompson has been idly fantasizing about his impact. He’s acutely aware of the team’s composition.
“We have the Finals MVP (Andre Iguodala), the two-time MVP (Stephen Curry), the DPOY (Draymond Green) – champions,” he said. “We’ve got the core. We’ve got the youth. We’ve got the role players, who are showing why we went after them. I just really want to win a championship again. I want to just . . .”
His voice trailed off, but Klay was not quite finished.
His pause ended with an emphatic grunt that might be described as a sound equal parts frustration and anticipation.