Klay Thompson has confirmed that he will be returning from a 941-day absence when the Golden State Warriors host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night.
Almost 31 months after tearing his ACL to his left knee in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors and nearly 14 months after suffering a broken right Achilles ahead of the 2020/21 season, Thompson was cleared to rejoin in a team that started this campaign 29-9 without him.
Thompson’s return will be shown live Sky Sports, with coverage starting at 01:30 in the early hours of Monday morning UK time.
Moments after Saturday’s rehearsal ended and Golden State manager Steve Kerr told the media, “It’s not my announcement or decision to make,” the Warriors tweeted a Thompson statement titled “The Wait Is Over” .
He said, “I hate to use the phrase ‘I can’t wait’ because I love being present in my life but I can’t wait to play again in front of our fans. I really enjoy being a Warrior.”
Without revealing Thompson’s secret, Kerr noted moments before the 31-year-old would return as a starter, before timidly adding: “When he returns … it will be one of the most exciting nights of my life in basketball.”
Thompson’s last game was on June 13, 2019 against Toronto, in a defeat that ended Golden State’s bid for a fourth title in five seasons. He missed the last 175 games of the club’s regular season and both games of the 2021 play-in tournament, with the Warriors not returning to the playoffs from knee injury.
His comeback comes just as the Warriors have been saddled with their first two-game losing streak of the season. They were without Stephen Curry (bruised right quadriceps) and Draymond Green (strained left hip) in the 101-96 defeat in New Orleans on Thursday who completed a 0-2 away match. Golden State lost the night before, 99-82 to Dallas.
Many of Thompson’s Warriors teammates, including Curry, Green and Andre Iguodala, took to social media on Saturday night to express their excitement about his return.
In the Cavaliers, Thompson will see a surprisingly familiar opponent despite being from the other conference. That’s because Golden State and Cleveland met in 22 playoff games – four consecutive NBA Finals from 2015-18 – during which Thompson helped lead the Warriors to 15 wins and three championships.
Thompson has faced only four teams (all Western Conference clubs) more often: Houston Rockets (51), Los Angeles Clippers (44), Portland Trail Blazers (42) and San Antonio Spurs (41).
After being hit hard by Covid in late December, Cleveland has gotten healthier over the past week, winning two out of three, including 114-101 in Portland on Friday in opening a six-game away game.
Darius Garland led the way with 26 points, but the big news was the smooth transition of Rajon Rondo, who made his debut with the Cavaliers off the bench with 11 points, five rebounds and three assists in 17 minutes.
“It was fun,” Garland later said. “The first two plays were like: Dang, that’s Rondo on the floor.” But it was nice. Rondo is a really good guy; is a great veterinarian; is a leader in the field. So it was fun to play with him. “
Rondo is filling the void created when Ricky Rubio suffered a tear in his left ACL last month. Rubio is out for the season, joining highest-scoring guard Collin Sexton (meniscus torn left knee) in that distinction.
The clubs met once earlier this season, with the Warriors recovering from an 81-68 trailing at the end of the third quarter to shock the Cavaliers and their home fans with a 36-8 finish.
Curry (20 points), Damion Lee (nine) and Juan Toscano-Anderson (seven) teamed up to score all of the Golden State’s fourth quarter scoring in the stunning comeback that produced a 104-89 win.
Curry beat the Warriors with 40 points. Garland had 25 for the Cavaliers.