Can Thompson defy injury to guide Warriors to NBA Finals?

Klay Thompson made a successful return to the NBA court for the Golden State Warriors after an agonizing 941-day layoff due to two devastating knee injuries.

Thompson suffered a torn ACL during the Warriors’ defeat to the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals and was subsequently ruled out of the next campaign. The point guard was on the comeback trail for the Warriors in 2020 with the hope of returning to the court in the latter stages of the 2020/21 season, only to then suffer an Achilles’ tear that would rule him out of action for another 14 months.

After his significant layoff, Thompson would have had doubts as to whether he would ever return to the court, but Steve Kerr kept the faith in the 31-year-old and Thompson made his comeback for the Warriors with a 17-point performance in a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Golden State struggled in the two seasons without Thompson, while Steph Curry was plagued with injuries since the team’s last appearance in the NBA Finals resulting in a two-year period of struggle.

Return To Prominence For Golden State

The Warriors appear to be on their way back to the Finals with Curry operating at the peak of his powers once more, while Thompson’s on the road back to becoming the All-Star he was before injuries stymied his career. Thompson will be a vital player down the stretch for Golden State and could be the difference between success and failure. The Warriors have attempted to fill the gaps with indifferent talent since his injury and it has had an effect on their performances on the court.

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Thompson is the not first major sportsperson to suffer a serious injury and certainly will not be the last. At the time of his injury, Thompson was one of the best players in the NBA, and returning to that level will be a challenge for the 31-year-old, especially considering his age. Golden State will need him near his best to beat out the challengers in the Western Conference and then the winner of the Eastern Conference in the Finals.

The Warriors are backed in outright Betway NBA betting odds at a price of +500 to win the crown after an outstanding first half of the campaign. It would be fitting if Thompson could push them over the edge on the court to return Kerr’s men to their dominant ways of old when they appeared in the Finals for five-straight seasons, winning three NBA Championships in the process.

Comeback Kings

He could emulate other greats of the modern sporting era to overcome injury problems to win a title. Tiger Woods’ career seemed to be over after a litany of back-related injuries, which included missing all four majors in 2016 and 2017. He returned to the golf course in 2018 and displayed gradual improvement before he rose to the top of the sport once more with a brilliant performance at the 2019 Masters to win the Green Jacket for a fifth time, ending his major drought of 11 years.

Peyton Manning endured a similar injury layoff to Thompson as he missed the entire 2011 NFL season with the Indianapolis Colts. Before undergoing neck surgery, Manning had established one of the greatest careers by a quarterback in the history of the NFL, winning a Super Bowl along with four MVP awards during a 12-year stretch. However, his neck injury threatened his career and the Colts believed that their future seemed brighter in the hands of Andrew Luck rather than the veteran. At the age of 35, Manning entered an uncertain future in free agency.

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However, he signed a lucrative deal with the Denver Broncos in 2012 and was back to his best immediately. Two years removed from his injury, Manning broke the NFL record for passing touchdowns and yards in a single season. He then ended his career on the highest of notes by winning Super Bowl 50 with the Broncos. The Colts certainly regretted allowing Manning to leave the franchise as the heir apparent to the Hall of Famer Luck retired ahead of the 2019 campaign due to injury problems of his own.

What Will Thompson Achieve?

The Warriors must be careful not to expect too much too soon from the 31-year-old. Fortunately, the franchise has Curry operating at an MVP level, while Andrew Wiggins has also been a standout performer for Kerr’s men this term. Younger players such as Jordan Poole and Kevon Looney have also been impressive and have carried their weight and more on the court.

The introduction of Thompson into the fold will give opposing teams another headache regarding their defensive strategy. It will take time for Thompson to return to his All-Star caliber performances, but after five months of regular-season action, he should be at a level to make a decisive impact, come the playoffs.

 

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