What Warriors SG does on a mission in the G League

LOS ANGELES – As the Warriors took off for a short road trip, Klay Thompson made the even shorter trip south to Santa Cruz by land. The avid boat captain thought about it, but decided not to go down the coast to the Warriors’ G League affiliate.

Thompson followed up his first G League scrum with a full day of practice Monday and another scheduled five-on-five streak on Tuesday, as the NBA Warriors face the Phoenix Suns in the first of a highly anticipated series at home with their top level competition in the Western Conference.

With another potential playoff glimpse looming on Christmas Day, could Thompson be back by then? That’s very much in line with the vague timeline proposed by the Thompson and Warriors team medics. So far, he’s made enough progress to join Santa Cruz’s practices and scrums while the Warriors are away from home.

Santa Cruz coach Seth Cooper provided an update on Monday after practice.

Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson trains at Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz on Monday as he approaches his return to the NBA. (Shmuel Thaler / Santa Cruz Sentinel)

The strong points

Living up to reports of the final stages of his rehab, Thompson looked like his old self during his first two days in Santa Cruz.

He showed his signature shot by hitting the first 18 attempts – more or less – of the first practice range he participated in, Cooper said. His explosiveness was brought out during a quick braking exercise, when a teammate passed him into the transitioning lane and he darted over the edge for a dunk. And he even gave a glimpse into the future by sharing synchronized off-ball moves with a capable teammate.

“Right away you can see the level he brings. He was great, jumping into everything today in terms of training, ”said Cooper. “All the drills, all the defensive drills, he really picks on him. … Everything we did was 100 percent. There was no way to hold him back. He was totally live.

The work

The rehabilitation is over. Now it’s about getting in shape.

For Thompson, that means he’ll spend the next month building his endurance. He must also get used to the normal rhythm of a basketball season, after two years of only individual exercises.

“They wanted him to do a full workout today as he recovers, getting a little more of a normal schedule than he will be,” Cooper said. “He wanted to go out there and do whatever the team did. It’s about building stamina, conditioning, and living a few days in a row, as it will hopefully soon.

The scrums had segments of up to 4 minutes at a time. He’ll play full 12-minute quarters when he’s ready to return. Still, it was the closest thing to gaming action that Thompson had known in over two years.

Santa Cruz brought in referees, a scorers table and played with the rules of the NBA.

Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson takes a break from training as he practices Monday at Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz. (Shmuel Thaler / Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Coach Steve Kerr was able to watch footage from Sunday’s scrum.

“Klay looked good. It was a really good day for him,” Kerr said.

Cooper, who trained against Thompson in the scrum, developed Kerr’s assessment.

“He got out and he made four or five hits right away. And we asked for a time out and told our guys we didn’t think we needed a test report, but No 11 can really shoot, ”Cooper said. “You just forget how tall he is and how quickly he gets shot.”

There are a few pieces the Warriors have installed over the past two seasons that Thompson has yet to master. This is one aspect where the integration of Golden State and its subsidiary G League helps: The Sea Dubs are already running the same playbook as Golden State.

“Steve asked us to just put together a few sets and plays,” Cooper said. “And the good thing is that we do exactly the same things they do. But just to give him a few things to learn that are new. So a couple of things the Warriors have run in the last couple of years that they haven’t run before.

On one play, Thompson drove and kicked the ball to Axel Toupane, then rushed to the corner, where he was set up for an open 3.

“The second the ball went off you were really expecting it to come in,” Cooper said. “It’s those types of pieces that you see and you can imagine him playing with Draymond, Wiggins and Steph and all these guys that they have out there and you start to get excited. You could feel it. He’s an NBA player, a top NBA player over there.

Adjustment

Thompson is integrating very well with his temporary G League teammates.

He is, after all, Thompson’s second brother to walk through the Santa Cruz arena.

A banner hangs from the rafters that his brother, Mychel, helped win in the 2015 season, something Thompson has not failed to point out “two or three times” since joining Santa Cruz, said. Cooper.

“The Thompsons scored a lot of baskets in this building,” Cooper recalls, telling Thompson before he was posted there. “He mentioned that maybe this year having a Thompson in the building again might lead to another championship.”

Off the field, while he didn’t brave the waves of the Pacific to get by boat to Santa Cruz, he blends in perfectly with the inhabitants of the city’s beach most famous for its waves and the people who surf them.

“He adopted it, just like he would,” Cooper said. “He told me about doing some bodyboarding at the beach. He said surfers don’t like it, but he could go on social media and ask a bunch of guys to bodyboard with him.


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