More than 500 full-timers are on the Warriors' payroll and it’s a good bet every one of them remembers where they were and what they were doing when they heard Klay Thompson had torn his Achilles’ tendon and would miss a second consecutive season.
For Klay, it meant another surgery and another year of therapy and rehab. He would get no closer to the court than a seat on the bench.
For the Warriors, it meant a reduction in realistic goals. And coveted free agents losing interest in coming to the Bay Area.
"Some even said, 'Had Klay not gotten hurt I would have come,'" team president Bob Myers acknowledges. "Who knows if that's true or not?
"But that's the thing we hope we've accomplished in the last couple months, is proving to some of those kinds of guys, 'I think the Warriors can win.' They have to believe that. I hope we've showed that we're close."
In short, the Warriors next season would like to install a plan very similar to that which they were prepared to implement last season.
The unfortunate thing is they don’t know when they’ll have that option.
It already had been decided that Thompson was going to add another role, playing small forward as well as his customary shooting guard. His rotation usage was subject to being tweaked, with combo forward Andrew Wiggins being his primary sidekick to open the second and fourth quarters.
That model remains written in pencil, at least for now, as there is no certainty on when Klay will be cleared for full activity. The Warriors are pessimistic about an Opening-Night return, realizing Klay might need another month or two.
"Now, will he be playing in a game yet? We don't know," coach Steve Kerr said, peeking into the future. "But he'll be running around and shooting and practicing with us and doing all that, we know. And we'll just have to see where his progress is at that point to determine when he's able to play."
Furthermore, even though Thompson will start once he is cleared, his minutes almost certainly will be restricted. It might be the second half of the season before he’s able to comfortably reach 30-33 minutes.
A lineup featuring Thompson and Wiggins, paired with combo guard Jordan Poole, makes for an intriguing and potentially explosive second unit. Add Kevon Looney and a productive veteran big – the Warriors will explore that market in free agency – and there is a high probability of a group that can be effective at both ends.
The hope is that Thompson’s return reincorporates a wing capable of averaging about 20 points per game while also playing solid defense. The Warriors are encouraged that Kevin Durant, coming off surgery to repair an Achilles’ tendon, has been able to return and play remarkably well.
A note of caution: KD returned without restrictions on playing time – but 18 months after surgery.
Thompson, 31, won’t be 18 months post-surgery until May 2022. He has lost two prime seasons and is destined to lose much of a third.
This brings us back to the heartbreak of last November and why memories of that day will haunt the franchise for many years to come.
Memories of last season, a second straight without the playoffs, will fade, but the same can’t be said of their most devastating loss. The Warriors can only hope that it’s somewhat obscured by Klay’s healthy return and a deep playoff run.