Klay Thompson knows how good the Warriors are. He watched them fly out to a 29-9 start as he completed his Achilles rehab and got his wind back. He knew they were championship good and hoped that he could help return them to the top of the sport once he was back in action.
It's one thing to see and to hope. It's another to believe.
After 941 days away from the NBA, Thompson made his triumphant return Sunday night at Chase Center, scoring 17 points in the Warriors' 96-82 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Thompson got up 18 shots in 19 minutes, electrified the crowd with a ferocious dunk, and felt good on the defensive end as he works his way back to being a two-way force in the NBA.
With his return now completed, Thompson envisions the Warriors' title aspirations in a different light.
"Oh yeah," Thompson said after the game Sunday. "Now that I can actually feel the ball and feel myself, you know, making shots, and cutting, and defending, I can see in the future where I can be successful and how I can help this team win a championship. I know what it takes, so do the guys on this roster. I remember during Media Day it was 'write down your goals for this season.' and every single player said, 'win a championship.'
"Just to have that unity, that will take you so far and, I'm just excited to go home and watch the film and critique myself and see how I can do better. It's been a long time coming."
Nine-hundred and forty-one days before he took the court to an earth-shaking ovation at Chase Center, Thompson left the court at Oracle Arena with the Warriors still scratching and clawing for their championship lives.
Thompson missed the Warriors bottoming out as he rehabbed his torn left ACL. The torn right Achilles robbed him of being a part of their gradual climb back last season.
On Sunday, he returned to a similar position as the one he left on June 13, 2019. As the star shooting guard for the NBA's best team.
"We were laughing because he was out for  days, the last game he played, we were in The Finals," Steph Curry said after Sunday's game. "I don't think he really felt what went on the court the year after when I got hurt and 15-50, and this last year during the pandemic and the play-game and all that type of stuff. He has only seen the playoffs.
"I think for him it's good confidence of coming back and hopefully we're back at that level that we're used to being at, and go from there in terms of what our high expectations are. We have an amazingly talented group, and very deep, so I don't know what it's going to look like, but we have the capability and opportunity to get there. He's going to be a huge part of that, obviously."
With Thompson's long road back to the NBA finally complete, he and the Warriors now turn their collective attention to delivering Golden State back to its rightful place atop the NBA.