Klay Thompson makes season debut for Golden State Warriors, plays in first game since 2019 NBA Finals

Klay Thompson is back.

The Golden State Warriors guard made his season debut Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Chase Center, playing in an NBA game for the first time since Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals – a span covering 941 days.

He was in the starting lineup alongside long-time teammates Steph Curry and Draymond Green. Thompson received an extended standing ovation from Warriors fans when his name was announced in pregame introductions.

The Warriors ran the first play of the game for Thompson who dropped in a runner in the paint with 11:20 left in the first quarter. He missed his first three 3-point attempts and was 1-for-5 from the field before checking out with 7:37 remaining in the first quarter.

“IM SO EXCITED TO SEE YALL DUBNATION ! LETS GET IT,” Thompson posted Saturday on Instagram.

In a video shortly after posted on the Warriors’ Twitter feed, Thompson said, “I hate to use the phrase ‘can’t wait’ because I love to be present in my life. But I cannot wait to play in front of our fans again. I really, really enjoy being a Warrior.”

Klay Thompson #walks onto the court prior to the Warriors’ game against the Cavaliers.

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Thompson isn’t the only one looking forward to his much-awaited return.

“I have no doubt when Klay walks onto the floor for the first time, I will never forget that game,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters Saturday. “It will stand out as one of the highlights of my entire basketball existence just because of who Klay is and how much he has meant to our franchise and to the Bay area and to me personally and to his teammates. He’s everybody’s favorite guy and we’ve all seen him suffer for 2½ years. It’ll be very emotional.”

Warriors players entered the arena wearing Thompson’s No. 11 jersey.

Thompson, 32, tore the ACL in his left knee in Game 6 of the 2019 Finals and missed the 2019-20 season, and just before the start of 2020-21, he tore his right Achilles tendon, missing all of that season, too.

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“Tonight is about all of showing our appreciation for what he’s had to go through individually and expressing our affection for him and I know our fans are going be to going crazy,” Kerr said almost two hours before tip-off. “It’s going to be emotional. In a lot of ways, it’ll be a very difficult game just trying to lock in and focus while something much bigger than the outcome is actually happening, and that’s the challenge for the group is to try to focus amidst all this emotion.”

There was much speculation about his return date. Just before Christmas? On Christmas? Jan. 2? Thompson started dropping hints six days ago, and on Saturday, Kerr told reporters it wasn’t his news reveal and instructed them to watch their phones for a social media post.

Returning from an Achilles injury isn’t easy and couple that with an ACL injury, Thompson went through grueling rehab to put himself in this position. Kobe Bryant struggled to return from his Achilles injury, but that was later in his career. Kevin Durant, Thompson’s former teammate in Golden State, came back from an Achilles injury (sustained in the 2019 Finals) and re-established himself as one of the game’s best players. Durant is an MVP candidate this season.

The Warriors are 29-9 and in second place in the Western Conference, just a half game behind Phoenix. Getting a seven-time All-Star who is one of the league’s best 3-point shooters and perimeter defenders will only make the Warriors better, enhancing their chances to win the West – even if it takes Thompson some time to return to form.

Kerr said he plans to play Thompson in five-minute bursts against the Cavs.

“He’s not going to play a huge number of minutes,” Kerr said. “We’re going to ease him into his role.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Warriors’ Klay Thompson plays in first NBA game since 2019 Finals


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