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- American basketball player
How Klay has played after missing Warriors games in the past originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Before Klay Thompson missed the last two-plus seasons, he was one of the NBA's true Iron Horses. After the Warriors selected him with the No. 11 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Thompson played all 66 games as a rookie, starting in 29 for then-head coach Mark Jackson.
Klay then played in all 82 games his second year in the NBA before missing a game for the first time in his career during his third season, for a more-than-understandable reason. As Thompson finally makes his long-awaited return to the Warriors after more than 900 days away from doing what he loves most, this is a reminder of what he always has been: Consistent.
Since entering the league, Thompson has never shot under 40 percent from 3-point range while only improving his overall game on both sides of the ball. Starting in the 2014-15 season, his first as an All-Star, he has averaged at least 20 points per game in the last five seasons that he has played. He was named an All-Star in all five of those campaigns.
He always has responded to adversity to the highest degree.
Now, he faces his biggest challenge yet. The ultimate Warrior and one of the most beloved Bay Area athletes of all time is making an unprecedented comeback. Prior to making his Chase Center debut, he missed only 25 regular-season games in his first eight seasons.
Thompson and the rest of the Warriors are only focused on what's to come next. They've put the past away, constantly looking at the light at the end of this far too long tunnel, closing a book that belongs in the Restricted Section. But in anticipation of him finally joining Steph Curry and Co. on the court, let's look back at how strong Thompson has responded to missed games in the past, starting with his third season with Golden State.
For the first 214 regular-season games of his NBA career, Thompson was there for the Warriors. He scored 26 points in a loss to the L.A. Clippers on March 12, 2014 but wasn't there for Game 215 in a nine-point loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers two days later. His reason didn't need any questioning either.
Thompson flew back to the Bahamas for his grandfather's funeral before returning for the Warriors' March 16 game against the Portland Trail Blazers and played hero on the road in a 113-112 win. Not only did he score 27 points after missing a game for the first time in his career, he also made the game-winning 3-pointer with only 12 seconds remaining to give the Warriors a 113-110 lead.
It was his second game-winning shot in a two-week span after also doing so on March 4 against the Indiana Pacers, and just the start to Thompson coming back with a vengeance whenever he had to miss time.
Thompson missed a game to an injury for the first time in his career on Nov. 9, 2014 in a 12-point loss to the Phoenix Suns with a sprained right hand. He returned two days later and dropped 29 points while going 5-for-6 from deep, but the Warriors lost by 13 points to the San Antonio Spurs.
He missed five games in his fourth season, and averaged 21.3 points and shot 52.4 percent from 3-point range in games after missing time.
In his fifth season, and second straight as an All-Star, Thompson missed only two games. He scored 19 and 12 points in the immediate games after missing time, averaging 15.5 points in such instances and shot just 25 percent from deep in those two games combined.
Thompson doubled his time away from the Warriors from the previous season, missing four games. He scored 23, 35 and 28 points the first three times he returned before scoring just 12 in the regular-season finale during a blowout win over the Los Angeles Lakers after missing the previous contest against the Utah Jazz.
Klay missed a long stretch of games for the first time in his career during March of 2018. He was out for eight games from March 14 through the 29th, and also missed one game earlier in the season on Jan. 10. He scored just 12 points and missed both of his 3-point attempts after returning from a one-game absence in January, but caught fire after missing two weeks two months later.
With his fractured right thumb healed, the Splash Brother scored 25 points while going 10-for-19 from the field in a 16-point blowout win over Sacramento.
The last time Thompson played in the regular season, he only missed four games. He was back to making it rain in the Bay and on the road when he returned too. After missing a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 31, Thompson put up 28 points and went 4-for-7 from beyond the arc to open up February, and then dropped 39 points while making nine of his 11 3-point attempts at Oracle Arena in a blowout win against the Denver Nuggets after missing the first two games of March.
He also scored 19 points in just under 17 minutes to end the regular season, after missing the previous game against the New Orleans Pelicans.
It was in the playoffs where Klay again showed he always has been on a missing when he has to miss any time. Thompson left Game 2 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors early with left hamstring tightness, a game in which he scored 25 points, and was ruled out for Game 3 with a strained left hamstring.
All he did next was score 28 points and go 6-for-10 from 3-point range in Game 4, but that still wasn't enough as the Warriors lost by 13 and fell behind in the series three-games-to-one.
Thompson, a three-time champion, has played 124 playoff games and Game 3 of the 2019 Finals was the first time he ever missed any action in the postseason.
Over his eight-year career, in the rare occasions that he has missed time in the regular season, it's clear how Klay responds. In the immediate game after missing time at all, whether it be one contest or a longer stretch like in 2018, Thompson has averaged 22.9 points in his return while shooting 50.1 percent on 3-pointers.
This is where we again stress that returning after an absence that has been two and a half years too long to a torn ACL and then a torn Achilles is much different than any other injury that Thompson has dealt with in the past. Really, it's different than any player has dealt with before, especially one who was in the prime of his career and is one of the game's stars.
The Warriors have done everything in their powers to make sure Thompson is as close to his old form as possible when he's first announced in the starting lineup once again. He has been on the same page, prioritizing his conditioning and making it clear the last thing he wants to be is a shell of himself at 31 years old. All the right voices, AKA the ones who will say it like it is -- Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala -- have only shared the same old Klay has joined them on the court in practices, hunting shots and pouring in points.
When he spent a brief amount of time in late November with the Warriors' G League affiliate in Santa Cruz, head coach Seth Cooper said Klay made his first 18 shots during a drill, and then the next day he hit the game-winning 3-pointer during Santa Cruz's scrimmage.
Steve Kerr recently laid out the plan for Thompson's return, saying that Klay will start for the Warriors and likely will play around 15 to 20 minutes. The last time he played under 20 minutes was the final game of the 2018-19 regular season. Before then, he hadn't played that few minutes in a game since April 15, 2015 when he put up 25 points in only 16 minutes against the Nuggets.
There's no telling what the Warriors will get out of Thompson in his first game back. The stats are secondary at this point. Jitters, rust and a belly full of butterflies will be there, and rightfully so. He has earned them, just like he has earned the ear-shattering ovation he's about to receive in his first game at his new home in San Francisco.
Enjoy the show. If history is any indication, we're all in for another unforgettable day from Klay.