It has been over two years since Klay Thompson last took the court of the Warriors.
Thompson was at the peak of his powers before tearing his ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, and a torn Achilles last November cost him a second straight season.
Steph Curry and the Warriors know how important Thompson's return is to their title chances, and Curry has seen good things from his backcourt mate during the final stages of his rehab.
"He's confident, he's energetic, he is in a good space mentally knowing that this has been a long two years for him," Curry told ESPN's Cassidy Hubbarth during the Warriors' Summer League game Wednesday. "We're not going to keep reminding him of how long it has been, but he understands the work that is ahead of him and the opportunity that is ahead of him to come back to be the Klay that we all know and love and that is what his expectations are.
"So he's putting in the work. It was great to have him around all year even though he wasn't playing for us. Being in the locker room and bringing that energy for us. Once we get back to training camp, it will be right at the end of his rehab progress. So, hopefully, we can help get him over the hump and get him back on the court."
After missing the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, the Warriors went into the offseason needing to upgrade their roster to vault back into title contention. They focused on the future in the NBA draft by selecting Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga, but added veterans Andre Iguodala, Nemanja Bjelica and Otto Porter Jr. in free agency, giving them a much deeper roster than the one Curry dragged to the play-in tournament last season.
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That being said, the Warriors are aware that how Thompson looks upon his return likely will dictate their spot in the title hunt.
"I think that's mostly on Klay, what he can be," president Bob Myers told reporters after the NBA draft when asked if it was realistic to expect the Warriors to contend for a title next season. "Not 'on him,' but with a healthy Klay Thompson we are right there with everybody. But I don't know if, when, how -- I expect him to come back healthy. I don't want to put any pressure on the date because it's not going to be at the start of the season, it's not going to be the first game. But really we need one of our top two or three players to be one of our top two to three players.
"I think that will determine if you put a healthy Warriors team against our competition, looking at the league right now ... with our core of three guys and [Andrew] Wiggins and having [Kevon] Looney and [James] Wiseman and [Jordan] Poole and Juan [Toscano-Anderson] and Eric [Paschall] and Damion [Lee] and everybody that is in our rotation, and maybe one of these young guys gives us more than we thought, then yeah.
"I think when you look at this past playoffs or any past playoffs, it's 40 minutes for [Steph] Curry, 40 minutes for [Draymond] Green, 40 minutes for Thompson -- this is even when we were in The Finals. Wiggins played huge minutes [last season]. We're going to need some help, we're going to need to get to the playoffs obviously we didn't there the past two years. But with a healthy team heading into the playoffs, yeah, I don't see a team where we look at and say we can't beat them. Doesn't mean we will."
Curry, Kevon Looney and coach Steve Kerr all have raved about Thompson's progress during rehab. There's no doubt Thompson is champing at the bit to get back on the court and prove he still can be one of the best two-way guards in the NBA.
If he can achieve that goal, the Warriors should be in the thick of the title hunt come spring.