SAN FRANCISCO – Hang on to those memories of Klay Thompson wrecking his knee, trying to shake it off and willing himself back onto the court for Game 6 of the NBA Finals, for those few fleeting seconds likely are the last we’ll see of kamikaze Klay.
The Warriors' iron man wing underwent surgery in July and has become a wiser and more heedful man.
The four-time All-Star has no plans to sprint back to the Warriors or set any kind of speed record for returning to the NBA after undergoing ACL surgery.
“No, I'm going to do what the team says,” Klay said Monday. “I've done my due diligence on rehabs and ACL injuries, and the last thing you want to do is rush back, especially for a player like me who wants to play until he's in his late 30s. I want to play at a high level until that point, too."
“As much as it kills me not to be on the court, patience is a virtue, and rushing back would be not very smart.”
Thompson is known for his durability. He didn’t miss a game until his third season, playing 214 consecutive games before missing one to attend the funeral for his grandfather. He missed four games last season and played in all 21 postseason games before tearing his ACL in the last game of The Finals.
Thompson’s reputation led to speculation that he would attack his rehabilitation with sheer ferocity in an effort to speed up his recovery. It’s a nine-month minimum recovery generally, and he has discovered the insanity in trying to make it six or seven.
The Warriors squashed any hint of pressure Monday, with general manager Bob Myers saying there will be no update on Thompson’s status until around the All-Star break in February.
Though Thompson, who signed a five-year contract worth $190 million a few days after surgery, is walking without a noticeable limp, he is not yet ready for running and cutting and jumping.
“Soon,” he vowed. “But I'm just excited to start my first workout with the staff tomorrow. But pretty soon I should start moving around pretty good.”
The addition of D’Angelo Russell, a true scoring threat, makes Thompson’s absence a bit easier to absorb. The Warriors will have to survive without the man who has played in more games (615) than any other member of the team over the past eight seasons.
Stephen Curry has played in 540 games during that span. Draymond Green -- drafted one season after Thompson -- has played in 533 games over seven seasons.
Life over the past three months – heavy on pain medication and the early stages of rehab – have given Thompson a new perspective on his health and also the game of basketball.
“It's been just kind of tedious. I mean, the workouts, they're not fun,” he said. “You're not on the court putting together dribble packages and getting up jumpers and playing one-on-one. You're doing a lot of tedious exercises just to build back strength and confidence and pass those mental hurdles that might hold you back."
I'm about to enter phase two of the rehab, and it's been great. I had surgery July 2, so I've made huge strides since then."
“I've become much more sympathetic to all athletes at all levels who go through a major injury or surgery. It's not fun, and it really tests your patience. But it's our job to come back even stronger, and the team has faith in me to do that. That's why I think they rewarded me with my extension.”
Knee surgeries have advanced tremendously over the decades. Rarely do they threaten a career. But using common sense, as Thompson promises to do, is always the right thing.