SAN FRANCISCO — Despite reports to the contrary, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Sunday that Klay Thompson had not yet been cleared for full participation in practice.
A report in The Athletic said Thompson had been given the go-ahead to fully participate in practices and that the Warriors were eyeing the week before Christmas for his return, but Kerr declined to confirm the news.
“Nobody has told me that, so I don’t know where that came from,” Kerr said before Golden State tipped off against the Toronto Raptors.
Kerr has been receiving updates from Dr. Rick Celebrini, the Warriors’ vice president of player health and performance, while Thompson stayed back during the Warriors’ last road trip. Thompson had been playing five-on-five, one of the last major hurdles for his return to the court, but had not progressed beyond that.
“It’s gonna be a while,” Kerr said Thursday, after Thompson’s second day of five-on-fives. “It’s not just a matter of, ‘OK, I’m cleared for contact, now I’m ready.’ There’s a process of rebuilding endurance, rebuilding strength, rebuilding all the things that are necessary, not just to thrive in one NBA games but in four NBA games a week. He’s got a ways to go, but he’s on a good path.”
The report Sunday was particularly notable because the Warriors have consecutive days off after their game against Toronto, which typically entails a more intense practice that could even include scrimmaging.
Thompson played five-on-five Monday and Wednesday against ringers the Warriors brought into their building but not anybody on an NBA contract; his first time scrimmaging with the team will also be his first time facing NBA-level competition in almost two years.
“Obviously it’s going to take some time for Klay to feel his rhythm defensively, as well as offensively,” Kerr said. “So fortunately, we’ve got a pretty good roster full of defensive-minded wings and we can pick different matchups each night, depending on what the opponent brings to the table.”
Thompson himself, as well as general manager Bob Myers, have previously used December as a possible timeline for his return. But those predictions were far in the future when they were made, and Sunday’s report would have been the closest the team has come to pegging down an exact date.
Given Kerr’s answer, the timeline for Thompson’s return is murky as ever.
The Warriors have already said his first game back won’t come on the road.
Golden State travels east for five games from Dec. 11-18, then returns home for two against the Kings and the Grizzlies prior to the Warriors’ Christmas-day contest at Phoenix.
The hope, according to Sunday’s report, is that Thompson would make his long-awaited return either Dec. 20 vs. Sacramento or Dec. 23 vs. Memphis. If he’s not ready by then, the Warriors also play at home Dec. 28 vs. Denver. However, seven of their first nine games in January come on the road, with their only home contests coming Jan. 3 vs. Miami and Jan. 9 vs. Cleveland.
In the meantime, Thompson continues to get into game shape for his first NBA-level competition in almost two years. He hasn’t played in a game since June 13, 2019 — Game 6 of the NBA Finals — when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. He was on the verge of returning from that injury when he ruptured his right Achilles tendon, Nov. 19, 2020, almost exactly one year ago.