As the Warriors were slogging their way through a 101-96 loss to the Pelicans on Thursday night in New Orleans, they also tripped an alarm loud enough to be heard all the way from Louisiana to the Bay.
It’s not exactly an emergency, but it’s legitimate. And urgent. Golden State’s offense is desperate for someone to respond. It can’t be just anyone.
It can be Klay Thompson.
After an absence of almost 31 months, Thompson is projected to return to the Warriors, maybe as soon as Sunday, according to coach Steve Kerr.
Such timing would be exquisite.
It’s not that Klay should be expected to come out firing and produce a 40-point game, and it’s just as irrational to anticipate he’ll drop 30. But his buoyant presence alone will be enough to give this sagging squad an emotional lift, something it sorely needs.
“I always talk about pacing the team, feeling those spots where maybe you’re hitting a lull and trying to help the team get through those lulls and get reenergized,” coach Steve Kerr said. “And I think that will happen here over the next couple weeks. We’re excited about what’s coming next.”
Consider the last two sentences transparent code for the impending addition of a certain five-time All-Star shooting guard who owns a gorgeous jump shot, a lovely boat, a loyal dog named Rocco and three championship rings with the Warriors.
The Warriors have now eaten consecutive losses for the first time this season. Furthermore, the 96-point effort at Smoothie King Center comes after they scored 82 Wednesday in Dallas, though neither opponent is considered a contender.
Golden State has been a top-five offense all season – scoring at least 100 points in 30 of the first 32 games – but, with notable exceptions in Phoenix and Utah, has spent the past few weeks scratching and scrambling for buckets.
Kerr cited Stephen Curry’s pursuit of the career record for 3-point makes, achieved Dec. 14 in New York, as possible factors in the drop in zest.
“The chase for the record for Steph took a lot out of him,” he said. “And maybe, emotionally, was a high that we reached as a group. And then that game ends and you’ve got 55 games left, or whatever it was. So, this is a natural time to have a little bit of a lull.”
Which, again, makes this a splendid time to regain Klay. Energy goes up if he is healthy and active. Buckets come easier, for everyone.
Draymond Green is sore, too, and also watched from the bench. No doubt, though, that he is longing for the return of his longtime teammate.
This is a game in which their absences hurt, to be sure, but not as much as the lack of production from those who were active. After building an 11-point lead midway through the second quarter, the Warriors were outscored 66-45 until before making a closing run over the final 95 seconds.
In the interim, the evening devolved from pursuit of victory with two veteran leaders on the sideline to teachable moments for young players.
Jordan Poole spent most of the night lost in hazy throwback to his rookie season, scoring one point until finding 10 in the final 1:11. He moves to the bench when Klay arrives and also could benefit from the assistance of a teammate with whom he will play for the first time.
Though he acknowledged Thompson’s return is a matter of days – and everyone expect that day to be Sunday – Kerr confirmed nothing, deferring to Rick Celebrini, the team’s vice president of player health and performance.
“It’ll be up to Rick,” he said. “We’ll have (Friday) off. And then we’ll come in and practice Saturday. We’ll talk to Rick and see what’s next.”
What’s next, barring the unforeseen, is Klay Thompson returning at a time when the Warriors are pleading for the alarm to stop ringing.