Klay, ‘hungrier’ than ever, vows to hit new heights next year originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Klay Thompson believes he has plenty of gas left in his tank.
Although the Warriors star missed each of the last two seasons due to a torn ACL and torn Achilles, respectively, the 31-year-old on Friday vowed to return to the court “hungrier” than ever next season.
Following the Warriors’ season-ending loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Thompson penned a tribute to his teammates, a promise to anyone reading and a proclamation about Golden State’s future.
The Warriors finished with the Western Conference’s eighth-best record in the regular season sans Thompson, needing Steph Curry to (arguably) top his unanimous NBA MVP season from 2015-16 season just to get that far. With Kelly Oubre Jr. — Thompson’s ostensible replacement after he tore his Achilles — and Damion Lee out down the stretch, Golden State resorted to using an eight-man rotation.
Oubre and Lee helped fill Thompson’s gap as best they could, but the Warriors especially missed their two-way star Friday.
For one, Golden State connected on just 12-of-34 3-pointers (35.3 percent) against Memphis. Outside of Curry (6-of-15) and Jordan Poole (3-of-5), no Warriors made multiple 3-pointers.
Far another, Golden State had no defensive answers for Memphis point guard Ja Morant. The 21-year-old scored 35 points on 14-of-29 shooting, including 5-of-10 on 3-pointers. Morant added six assists, six rebounds and four steals.
A healthy Thompson would’ve helped the Warriors beyond the arc and guarding Morant, but it remains to be seen if Thompson can reach his pre-injury heights. He hasn’t played in an NBA game since Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals — when he tore his ACL — and Golden State will need to ease him along slowly.
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Luckily for the Warriors, they can retain Lee on a relatively inexpensive contract and Poole looks ready for an even larger role next season. It’s no guarantee Oubre returns, and it would cost Golden State a lot in luxury tax — which, it’s worth remembering, has no real bearing on the ability to field a roster if the Warriors choose to pay it — to keep him. But, re-signing Oubre could serve as insurance for Thompson next season.
If you ask Thompson, though, he might say the Warriors don’t need to hedge their bets upon his return. He seems to have plenty of confidence in himself rediscovering his All-Star form.