Column: Klay Thompson on whether Warriors will make playoffs and Lakers’ big offseason steal
As Klay Thompson walked around Los Angeles recently, he did so without a limp or the assistance of crutches just one month removed from surgery to repair a torn left anterior cruciate ligament he suffered during the NBA Finals.
“I feel good,” Thompson said. “I’m going to come back 110%.”
Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed the procedure on Thompson at the Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, and Thompson said he is on track to return to the court at some point next season.
“That’s my goal,” Thompson said. “I doubt I’ll be back before the All-Star break, but I want to be back this season.”
Thompson knows the path toward a sixth straight NBA Finals appearance is going to be difficult for the Warriors, with his injury sidelining him for much of next season and the team losing Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Quinn Cook. But if Stephen Curry and Draymond Green can stay healthy and D’Angelo Russell — dealt to the Warriors as part of the trade for Durant — can build off his All-Star season, Thompson thinks the Warriors can be in the playoff mix by the time he’s ready to return.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers knows what it’s like to coach two superstars. Before Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, he had Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady in Orlando.
“My season is obviously going to start a little differently,” Thompson said. “I’m going to be on offseason mode for a little bit until I can run again. With Kevin leaving and DeMarcus leaving and losing Andre and Shaun, the parity in the league is back. Everyone was trying to catch up to the Warriors the past five years, but now teams have closed the gap, if not taken that leap, so for us getting D’Angelo was huge because in my absence, he’s a proven All-Star and a 20-point guy and great play maker.”
As Thompson goes down the list of teams in the West, he shakes his head at the number of contenders that are aiming to take the Warriors’ place in the Finals.
“The West is so stacked, not just with the Lakers and Clippers but the Jazz made great moves, the Nuggets are young and upcoming, the Blazers have an amazing backcourt, the Rockets have a two-headed monster in the backcourt with two MVPs still in their prime,” Thompson said. “So it’s going to be tough for us, but I assume I’m going to be on the court at some point and hopefully I’ll hit the ground running and we’ll be in playoff contention. That’s all we need is just a shot.”
Thompson, who was born in Los Angeles when his father, Mychal, played for the Lakers, said he never really considered leaving Golden State for a return to L.A. after the Warriors offered him a five-year maximum contract worth $190 million, but believes the Lakers got perhaps the best bargain of the offseason when they signed Cousins to a one-year, $3.5-million contract.
The Clippers and Lakers will kick off a brand new and exciting version of their rivalry, as they open the season Oct. 22 at Staples Center.
“DeMarcus is a great teammate and I developed such a great chemistry with him, coming off screens and cutting off from posts,” Thompson said. “I’ll miss him. I know he’s going to be a huge asset for the Lakers. When they slow it down, he’s so good on the block and such a great decision maker. People don’t realize what a great decision maker he is. Above all, I love his will to compete. He was very hurt last year during our Finals run but he was still out there making a huge impact and getting double-doubles and he won us a couple games, honestly.
“He’s just such a gamer and I’m going to miss competing with him. L.A. got a very good player, who’s very hungry. I know he’s eager to get out there and show everybody he’s still one of the best players in the world because he has all the talent.”
With next season’s NBA schedule slowly leaking out before the league officially unveils the complete slate, there’s one game — or at least one team — Kyle Kuzma is particularly looking forward to seeing.
The Lakers forward said the first time they play the New Orleans Pelicans will be interesting, going up against former teammates Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart, all part of the trade that brought Anthony Davis to the Lakers.
“They’re my friends and we’re always going to be friends,” Kuzma said. “Just because we’re not teammates doesn’t mean we won’t be friends. I’m always going to communicate with them and keep up with them. I’m just happy for those guys. They’re in an unbelievable situation for them to really grow and become the players they want to be.”
One of the bigger NBA names who’s still unsigned is former defensive player of the year and two-time All-Star Joakim Noah. While Noah is weighing his options, he has been training in Los Angeles and talking with Terrell Owens, who relayed his experience of playing with the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals at the end of his Hall of Fame career.
“I told him about the end of my career when I was with Dallas and looking to sign with another team and Buffalo came to the table,” Owens said. “That’s not the most desirable place to play football, but I didn’t allow that environment or what people said about it to deter me from going there. [Noah] might have a chance to go to Detroit, which isn’t a desirable destination, but I said be a bright spot in a not so great environment. It doesn’t matter. Just rededicate yourself and be the best basketball player you can be.”
Less than a year from the opening of the Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park, which will be the home of the Rams and Chargers, stadium officials have talked about planning for the 2022 Super Bowl, 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship Game and the 2028 Summer Olympics. Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff would like to add another event to that list perhaps as early as 2021 — WrestleMania.
“I know Los Angeles was one of the first cities WrestleMania was held in,” Demoff said. “I was a kid who grew up on WWE when it was known as WWF on Saturday nights and watching the events they had at the L.A. Sports Arena. We’ve had really good conversations with the WWE and they’re very aware of the building and what it can hold, so I’m hopeful we can get WrestleMania here in the near future.”
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.