Warriors' hot start has given Klay Thompson perfect return scenario

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  • Golden State Warriors
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Warriors' hot start has given Klay perfect return scenario originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

It has been 922 days since Klay Thompson limped off the court in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Nine hundred and twenty-two days since the Warriors' championship nucleus was whole.

That number will continue to tick up for now. Not because Thompson hasn't fully rehabbed his torn right Achilles tendon. But because the Warriors have what many were unsure they could do with the five-time All-Star in street clothes.

Win. A lot.

After Monday night's 113-98 win over the Sacramento Kings at Chase Center, the Warriors now are 25-6 and own the second-best record in the NBA, just percentage points behind the Phoenix Suns for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Two months ago when the Warriors opened their season in Los Angeles against the Lakers, Golden State was among the great unknowns in the NBA. Could Jordan Poole fill in admirably enough alongside Steph Curry while Thompson finished his rehab? Would Draymond Green be able to recapture his lost offensive game? Did the Warriors put enough pieces around Curry to be able to win if the two-time MVP has an off night?

And, most importantly: Could the Warriors stay afloat in the loaded West until Thompson returns?

The prevailing thought was that Curry could keep the Warriors in the Western Conference hunt until his Splash Brother was ready to rejoin him. The Warriors could certainly live slightly above.500 without Thompson, but they would need him sooner rather than later in order to be considered a true championship threat. They'd need Thompson to return sometime around Christmas and play his way back into full game shape, needing the limited minutes he could give them initially.

Well, that 25-6 mark has changed the equation for Thompson and the Warriors.

By all accounts and reports, Thompson's rehab is complete. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported over the weekend and reiterated Monday that Thompson's return will take place after Christmas because the star guard wants to be able to come back and jump on a train that's speeding toward a top seed. And he wants to do so in the best playing shape possible.

"What Klay Thompson has wanted to do is to continue to improve his conditioning," Wojnarowski said on "NBA Today." "So when he rejoins this team, he is able to go out and really play at the highest possible level and be able to just kind of get on this train moving and not sort of ease his way back in and use his return to necessarily improve his conditioning."

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Thompson's impending return has given the Warriors a spark from Day 1. The star shooting guard has been a constant presence at practice and home games, and his teammates see the incredible progress he is making.

That the Warriors have gotten out to a 25-6 start without Thompson logging a minute has given Curry, Green, and the rest of the team even more juice knowing how high their ceiling will be once Klay returns.

Coach Steve Kerr and the staff already have started to factor Thompson's return into their offensive calculus, and his teammates see him improving each time he enters the facility.

And yet, the Warriors and Thompson will wait a little longer. Not out of necessity but out of opportunity.

A 25-6 start allows the Warriors to wait until Thompson feels he can give them everything from the moment he sends Chase Center into a rabid frenzy by stepping back onto the court. He will return not as a 15-minute player asked to give a boost to a ship treading water, but as the final piece of a team focused on returning to the top of a mountain many believed they would never summit again.

The Warriors have given Thompson the runway he needs to build himself back up and return as the player they have missed for 922 days. Once he does, the hope is there will be no need for an ease-in period.

It will be all gas, no brakes for Thompson and the resurrected Warriors.

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