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Klay Thompson returns to full-team practice and backs Warriors for title

By Ben Spratt

Los Angeles, November 24: Klay Thompson is back in full-team practice for the first time in more than two years and believes his return can help the Golden State Warriors win the NBA title.

Thompson was a key member of championship-winning teams in 2015, 2017 and 2018 but sustained an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear as the Warriors' 'three-peat' bid failed against the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 Finals.

The guard then suffered an Achilles tendon injury while recovering, meaning he missed the entirety of two seasons prior to 2021-22.

But Thompson is now close to his long-awaited return, with his 19.5 career points per game and 41.9 per cent three-point shooting set to boost a Warriors team already leading the league.

Back practising alongside his team-mates on Tuesday, Thompson said: "It's so exciting. Just to be running up and down the court and playing basketball, it's truly a blessing and it makes coming to work so easy.

"The boring stuff's behind me and now it's just getting back in game shape. I've got to stay patient because I can be an overeager person to get out there and play, but I'm just incredibly grateful to be out there.

"The work the training staff and I have done over the last two years is really paying off, and it's hard to put into words how grateful I am to be playing basketball again."

After two tougher years following Thompson's injury and Kevin Durant's departure, Golden State are an outstanding 15-2. Only in 2015-16, when they had won each of their first 17 games, have the team enjoyed a better start.

The need for Thompson to return is not as desperate as had been imagined, as Stephen Curry is averaging 28.4 points in an MVP-calibre season while Andrew Wiggins (19.1) and Jordan Poole (18.4) have each also provided consistent scoring.

But adding Thompson into the mix is only going to improve the Warriors' chances, the man himself believes.

"We're 15-2. That's a great indicator of [being able to win a title]," he said.

"And our defence, I think it's top three in the league [allowing 101.1 points per game, ranked first], as well as our offense [scoring 114.2 points per game, also ranked first] – and I'm not even out there yet. Think about that. Really think about that.

"I'm more motivated than ever as well. I want a championship so bad. More than anything."

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr will not rush back his most reliable second man, though, explaining: "We don't have a target date.

"What we have is a number of weeks ahead of us for certain where we're going to play it out, keep letting him scrimmage as often as possible so that he'll build that endurance.

"And I would think within a few weeks we'll be able to finally sort of get a target date, but we don't have one right now."

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Story first published: Wednesday, November 24, 2021, 6:10 [IST]
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