When an NBA player returns from a major injury, he often does so incrementally. That player, no matter his pre-injury status, often comes off the bench and plays short minutes at first to help get re-acclimated to the speed and physicality of the game. This step in rehab would theoretically be even more important to someone returning from multiple major injuries, as Klay Thompson is trying to do following a torn ACL and torn Achilles over the past two years.
Yet Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr pushed back against that more traditional plan on Thursday. "Klay's gonna start when he comes back," Kerr said. "I'm not gonna mess around, bring him off the bench or any of that." This holds with the way the Warriors have typically dealt with major injuries in recent years. Thompson is reportedly targeting a January home game for his debut.
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Kevin Durant started Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals after missing the previous nine playoff games due to injury. Stephen Curry missed the bulk of the 2019-20 campaign, but when he returned for a single game in March, he was in the starting lineup as well. What the Warriors typically do rather than bringing their best players off the bench after major injuries is give them rehab stints with their G League teams. Both Thompson and Curry practiced with the Santa Cruz Warriors before their eventual returns.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported in December that conditioning was the only thing holding Thompson back from returning, saying that Thompson is ready for a role smaller than what he is used to, but that he wants to be "conditioned at a very high level" before playing for the Warriors again. This is consistent with Kerr's words. It seems as though when Thompson takes the floor again for the Warriors, he wants to do so as a high-minutes starter. He is already scrimmaging with the starters and is expected to return to the floor soon.
Fortunately for Thompson, the Warriors can give him all of the recovery time he needs on his way there. They have the NBA's best record at 27-7 and have thrived with Jordan Poole starting in Thompson's place at shooting guard. Poole will presumably go to the bench to make way for Thompson eventually and that should give Golden State one of the deepest backcourts in the league. Now, if there was any shred of doubt, we know how that backcourt will be aligned. In the near future, the Splash Brothers will be reunited in Golden State's starting lineup.