There was an eerie hush that fell over Oracle Arena during Game 6 of the NBA Finals last June when Klay Thompson went down grabbing his knee after landing following a dunk. It was a combination of “Are you kidding, not another injury?” and “Let this not be serious.”
It was serious — Thompson had torn his ACL. He will be out for much of this coming season rehabbing, until some time after the All-Star break (and likely into March). It will take longer than that for Thompson to return to his old self.
The injury happened just weeks before Thomspon would be a free agent. The injury did not change the Warriors plans, they still offered him a five-year, $190 million max contract. The idea of not re-signing Thompson never crossed the Warriors’ mind, team co-owner Joe Lacob said to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole on “The Warriors Insider Podcast.” (Transcription via NBC Sports Bay Area.)
“There was no doubt in my mind, whatsoever (they would resign Thompson). I, and we, want Klay to be here for a long time. He’s one of my favorite players in the world…
“ACLs … not good, ok we know that. But stuff happens and that’s an injury that now people know how to manage. Plenty of people have come back from ACLs and done pretty well. Honestly, it didn’t even remotely cross my mind.”
The Warriors have bet on Thompson’s return to form keeping Golden State as contenders going forward for years. They re-signed Thompson, extended Draymond Green, and still have Stephen Curry under contract. While Kevin Durant is in Brooklyn (and will play for them in a year following his recovery from his Achilles tear), the Warriors added All-Star D'Angelo Russell, who will either work out in a three-guard lineup for the team or be traded for a player who is a better fit (the Warriors are going to give this every chance to work before thinking trade).
There are two parts to players returning from a torn ACL: Physically getting well enough to play again, and mentally trusting that knee the same way and playing without hesitation again. The mental part takes longer. Thompson should get there, but it will take some time.
Even with that, the Warriors see themselves as part of the mix in a very deep Western Conference. They can be if everything goes their way, but the days of the Warriors having a margin for error and still winning big are gone.