SAN FRANCISCO – Golden State Warriors swing man Klay Thompson admitted 2020 was “the worst year of my life” and he hopes he’ll be ready for the start of next season as he continues to get through a ripped one right achilles tendon recovered.
Thompson spoke to the media for the first time since his injury on Nov. 18, 2020 during a training session in Los Angeles about the rehab he has been through for the second year in a row. Thompson has not played in an NBA game since June 13, 2019 after tearing the left ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors.
“It was probably the worst year of my life, guys,” Thompson said during a videoconference with reporters ahead of Sunday’s victory over Utah Jazz. “It feels good to be back. I feel love when I’m back at the Warriors facility. My roots are here. [The pandemic] was not easy for anyone. Everyone had their own little problems in 2020, but that was it for me – lost my grandma Mary, tore my Achilles, I still think about Kobe [Bryant] every single day.
“There’s not a day I don’t think about him. And not being able to have that final convo with him … it’s been a tough year folks. Not just for me, but I’m safe for all of you. I’m looking forward to the future, that’s for sure. “
Later on Sunday, Draymond Green, perhaps spurred on by Thompson’s words, had his 26th career triple double with 11 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists, and the Warriors held back NBA-leading Jazz 131-119 to a season-worst Four to end. Losing streak.
When Thompson was specifically asked about the opportunity to play early next season, he said that was his goal.
“Absolutely,” he said. “It could be a few weeks later, maybe a month later, but it will definitely be geared towards the start of the season.”
Thompson said he no longer wore the protective boot around his leg that he had been wearing since the operation to repair the Achilles. He couldn’t start running yet, but he used an underwater treadmill, “and it’s good for my psyche,” he said.
“”[The Achilles injury] It just happened on a real dribble pull up jump shot, a move I do 100 times a day, “Thompson said.” So it was just an unfortunate series of events. Nothing I could ever prepare for or prevent. Up until that point, I’ve been working my bum for 10 months and you just have to get back to the drawing board. I knew I did it right away and it’s in the past, but I’m getting better every day. “
Thompson admitted the mental aspect of his rehab was more difficult than handling the physical strain of a second injury at the end of the season.
“It’s a lot harder than any basketball game I’ve ever had to play,” said Thompson. “Much harder than any conditioning exercise or exercise. The mental stress isn’t much fun. They always guess whether you’re going to be the same gamer who you once were, so you have these natural thoughts, but you can’t let them overtake you and you realized that this is not only unique to me. So many athletes have been through this. Although I was used to playing 100 games a year for the first eight years of my career, this is just a new set of challenges and with mine Style of play, I feel like I could be effective by my late 30s so I’m not going to feel sorry for myself right now.
“I’ll just keep buckling up and do what I like to do.”
Thompson said he took comfort in knowing current and former NBA stars had a similar injury and were still going back to their old form, including one of his former teammates, Brooklyn Durets star Kevin Durant.
“From what I’ve read and heard, you may lose 5 percent of your explosiveness, maybe 10 percent,” Thompson said.
Thompson said he also spoke to Hall of Famer Grant Hill for some tips on how he was handling his rehab after various ankle injuries in the prime of his own career.
After missing the entire 2019-20 season, Thompson said it was difficult to accept the Achilles injury – and the realization that he would miss another full year.
“When it happened, I knew it happened, but I wasn’t even that emotional because my heart wasn’t going to accept it at the time,” Thompson said. “I was hoping for a calf strain or something, but I just did what I always did every summer. I was in the weight room, I took pictures, I did two days, the things that fans don’t do.” I was so excited to come back to court after a year. “
Thompson said the support he received from the Warriors Organization Up and Down was important to him as he tried to shake off disappointment.
“Luckily I have great team-mates,” he said.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr hoped from the start of the second injury that Thompson would spend more time with his teammates and coaches this season after spending part of last year’s rehab in Los Angeles. Thompson has been more of a fixture on the Warriors bench this season – both at home and on the go – a move that benefited both Thompson and his teammates.
“It has helped me a lot,” said Thompson. “I’ve got to the point in my career where I can vote and I know the guys appreciate that, even if they’re just out and about and just showing that I’m committed. I know that also goes a long way. ” But it’s nice when you train with your teammates in the gym every day and still feel part of it. “
The Warriors, who now have a record of 20-19, have struggled to find consistency without Thompson. Despite the ups and downs, Thompson remains confident he can help the Warriors get back into the title fight.
“I assume we’ll be right back in the fight,” said Thompson. “This year has obviously been tough with the pandemic and so many new players on the team. I love our group though. I think we have a great group. These guys come to work every day; they are excited to see great players. And we have playing basketball so much, even though our record doesn’t reflect how good I think we are. “
Thompson also went out of his way to praise James Wiseman, number 2 overall. Wiseman struggled to find a rhythm during his rookie campaign with the Warriors. He was recently banned from the first half of the Warriors’ loss to the LA Clippers on Thursday after missing initial practice after the All-Star hiatus for missing two consecutive days on COVID-19 testing. Wiseman scored 16 points in 8v11 shooting while playing the Jazz for 23 minutes.
“James is going to be a perennial all-star one day. He doesn’t know how good he is yet,” said Thompson. “Who does this when they’re 19? But he only has physical abilities and talents that you just can’t teach.”
Thompson understands that when he returns, his body may not be ready to play at its usual high level. Fortunately, there is time until then.
“I’ll be honest with you guys: I don’t expect to come back and just [go] Balls on the wall 38 minutes a night guarding the best player running on 100 screens, “Thompson said.” I’ll get to that point, I guarantee it. But I talked to [Warriors director of sports medicine and performance] Rick Celebrini over a lot; It can take 20 minutes to start the season, 18 minutes like a minute limit. We’ll see where I am. “