Warriors star Klay Thompson, in his first in-depth interview since suffering a torn ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals in June, characterized the injury as “obviously the most tragic part of sports,” saying he was humbled when Golden State then offered him a five-year max contract.
“I knew I did something. But I’ve never had the severity of an ACL injury or an injury that bad,” Thompson told ESPN’s Cari Champion in an interview during a “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” promotional event Thursday in Los Angeles. “So me, personally, I didn’t think it was that bad, initially. My adrenaline was so high being Game 6, whatever. I thought I sprained my knee; that’s all I thought it was.
“But when I went back to the locker room, it swelled up a lot, didn’t feel right. It’s just not a good feeling when you feel helpless and the team’s out there competing.”
Thompson, a month removed from surgery to repair his left knee, is expected to make a full recovery and follow a standard recovery time.
But he said he doubted he would be back before the All-Star break.
“I’ve heard varying opinions about, especially medically, I don’t want to rush it ’cause I want to play until I’m 38, 39, 40 years old,” Thompson said. “That’s my plan, especially because the way I can shoot the ball. I would love to see the floor this season. I don’t know when that is.”
Thompson said the Warriors had been fortunate to extend their success as long as they did without running into a spate of injuries like they experienced in the Finals, during which he went down after the Warriors had lost Kevin Durant to a ruptured Achilles tendon.
“So many great teams in history, not only basketball but all sports, have been struck by an injury bug,” Thompson told ESPN’s Champion. “And us, the Warriors, we were, that five-year run we had, five straight Finals, we were very lucky. We obviously had bumps in the road, but nothing as traumatic as what me and Kevin went through.
“So it was humbling, but the Warriors showed their loyalty and their respect for me, offering me that five-year deal,” Thomson said of his new $190 million contract. “Jumped on that as soon as I could, just because the history with this team and the franchise it would be so hard to leave. And the feeling of, you know, unfinished business, getting that close in the Finals, or to the fourth championship — tasting it — just being out of reach.
“It’s the pain of sports, but it’s what keeps me motivated.”
Thompson, 29, tore the ACL when he landed hard on a breakaway dunk attempt in the third quarter of Game 6. Golden State was leading 83-80 at the time; the Toronto Raptors went on to win 114-110 to finish off a 4-2 series victory and end the Warriors’ two-year run as NBA champions.
Several key pieces from that Golden State team have since been lost to free agency, forcing the Warriors to rebuild with what Thompson said were “guys who fit our system.”
“And we’ll carve out a nice role for all of them,” Thompson said.
Thompson added that despite the roster turnover, he is confident the Warriors will remain competitive for at least five more years.
“I think that’s a little premature, saying there’s no more dynasty,” Thompson said. “I mean, we still have Stephen Curry, a two-time MVP, Draymond Green, a defensive player of the year. Adding D’Angelo Russell was an incredible gift for us; I mean, that kid’s going to blossom into a superstar in this league. That gave me and honestly my teammates a breath of fresh life to see him come on board. Losing Andre [Iguodala] and Shaun [Livingston], that veteran presence, is going to be tough just because they’ve been so crucial to our development as a team the last few years. But I love the guys we’ve added. Getting Kevon Looney back is huge. His role in the playoffs was instrumental in getting us to the Finals. Same with Willie Cauley-Stein. I think his ability to play above the rim and run the floor is going to be great for us.
“And to say the dynasty is over I think is a little ignorant, ’cause I think I’m going to come back 100 percent — I think I’m going to come back even better and more athletic. And it would not be smart to count the Dubs out. That’s all I tell people, especially with the chemistry we still have and our foundation still being there, I think we have the ability to continue this run.”
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