NBC Sports

Why Klay's eventual return should go smoothly for Warriors

NBC Sports

SAN FRANCISCO -- Because Klay Thompson is who he is, and plays basketball as he does, his anticipated return to the Warriors next month should be about as smooth as imaginable, particularly on offense.

As to exactly when Klay will be activated, Warriors coach Steve Kerr downplayed a report in The Athletic indicating Thompson already has received clearance to fully participate in team practices and scrimmages, with his likely return coming the week before Christmas.

“Nobody has told me that,” Kerr said Sunday afternoon before tipoff against the Raptors at Chase Center. “I don’t know where that came from.”

Thompson played five-on-five last week, and that always comes at the end of injury rehab, so it’s likely that he will practice and scrimmage with his teammates in the coming days. The pre-Christmas return, which has long been the internal hope, has not been officially confirmed by the Warriors.

It won’t require much of an adjustment for the Warriors, and close to zero modification on offense. Thompson’s minutes will be restricted, for the first couple months and maybe for the duration of the season. He’ll sit out one side of back-to-back sets. In short, Klay’s comeback schedule will be similar to that which the Warriors have prescribed for Andre Iguodala.

Unlike Iguodala, Klay has a defined offensive role: Frequent motion off the ball, with a focus on shooting. His assists totals have never been high – he averages 2.3 per game for his eight active seasons – and ballhandling is a minimum.

 

Because Thompson is, in Golden State’s democratic offensive system, about as plug-and-play as possible, Kerr does not expect noticeable disruption on offense.

RELATED: Simmons: 'F- you' Warriors are back, ready to settle scores

“Not too much, given that Klay’s been here such a long time, and the team is built around Steph (Curry) and Draymond (Green) and built around Klay, too,” he said. “Klay is easy to build around because he doesn’t need the ball. He doesn’t spend a lot of time dribbling. He’s really moving off the ball, which fits perfectly with what do.”

Key phrase: “He doesn’t need the ball.” Though his handle has improved, there is little need for Thompson to rely on it with Curry and Green as ballhandling teammates. The best example of Klay’s off-ball dominance came on Dec. 5, 2016, when he scored 60 points in 29 minutes – on only 11 dribbles.

The expectation on defense, however, is another matter. It’s irrational to immediately expect zero effect on lateral movement from someone coming off a torn ACL on one leg and a ruptured Achilles’ tendon on the other.

“Fortunately, we’ve got a pretty good roster full of defensive-minded wings,” Kerr said. “We can pick different matchups each night, depending upon what the opponent brings to the table.”

Translation: With so many other capable wing defenders, it will be a while before Thompson is assigned the task that previously was routine: Defending the most dangerous guards in the NBA.