The Golden State Warriors took another step forward towards recapturing their dominance of the recent past when Klay Thompson returned from a 31-month injury absence on Sunday.
Thompson, 31, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in 2019, before tearing his right Achilles tendon during his recovery. An appreciative packed house saw him help the Warriors secure a 96-82 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The three-time NBA champion hit 17 points in front of a lively Chase Center crowd in San Francisco. “I'm never going to forget this night,” Thompson told NBA TV. He scored the Warriors' first basket of the game and hit seven of his 18 shot attempts, including making three three-pointers. It took him past 12,000 points and 1,800 career three-pointers.
Thompson is one of the greatest shooters in history, but his all round game is what makes him invaluable. His ability to attack weaker perimeter defenders, produce smart passes, and defend was evident against Cleveland.
Stephen Curry hit 28 points as the Warriors bounced back from two consecutive defeats. They tied with Western Conference rivals Phoenix Suns for the best NBA record; 30 wins and nine defeats.
Thompson last played in game six of the NBA Finals in June 2019, when he tore his ACL against eventual champions the Toronto Raptors. He then tore his Achilles in training in November 2020 and missed the whole of last season and most of the first half of the current campaign.
His team-mates all warmed up in various versions of his number 11 jersey to celebrate his return, before his arrival on court was greeted by a huge roar. "I got a lot of old feelings again about game days - it was surreal," he said. "The ovation to start the game, I just am so grateful for these fans. It was special."
Meanwhile, LeBron James, who holds the record for most Player of the Week awards by a large margin, added to his impressive tally again, with his 65th. If he wins one more award, James, 37, will have doubled the amount of his former rival and friend Kobe Bryant (33). Kevin Durant is third in the list with 28. LeBron’s first award goes back to his second season, 2005, in the league, where he averaged 29.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 3.3 steals, and 2.3 blocks in three games. He won two more awards that year.
His highest for one season was seven during the 2008-09 campaign. Some players don’t get this award once in their career. LeBron did it seven times that season. During the final week of the 2019-20 season, he nearly averaged a triple-double of 29.9 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 9.0 assists. On current form there is a strong chance of more of the same award for the Los Angeles Lakers this season.