CHICAGO — Klay Thompson was out Friday night against the Chicago Bulls — avoiding playing in consecutive games, part of the Warriors’ plan to ramp him back up to action in his return from a two-season absence — but he could see his most playing time yet in Golden State’s next game.
The next phase in Thompson’s gradual increase in playing time is expected to come Sunday against the Timberwolves, coach Steve Kerr said Friday prior to tipoff. Thompson has been limited to 20 minutes per game but starting Sunday, he’ll start to see a few more.
“I think the plan is to bump him up a little bit on Sunday,” Kerr said. “Not too much but a few minutes and go from there.”
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The concern with Thompson isn’t his surgically repaired Achilles tendon or ACL but his conditioning after such a long absence while rehabbing from both injuries. He went 941 days between games. But after three games back, Thompson said he is feeling great.
After playing 20 minutes Tuesday in Memphis, Thompson said, “I don’t even feel tired right now.”
One silver lining of the Warriors’ blowout loss in their next game — a 116-99 defeat in Milwaukee — was a mini milestone for Thompson.
After trailing big at halftime, Thompson started the third quarter by playing the first 10 minutes of the second half — his longest stretch of playing time since returning to the court. Previously Thompson had been limited to five-minute stretches — usually the opening and closing periods of each half — but Thompson didn’t check out until Kerr called timeout with 1:47 on the clock.
“It was good; it was important,” Kerr said. “I thought Klay playing that 10 minute stretch and without really looking fatigued was great. I know he didn’t shoot it as well as he wanted to, but his conditioning looked great.”
The five-minute bursts have left Thompson struggling to find a rhythm, so the Warriors could benefit exponentially from not just playing him more but in longer stretches, too.
All of Thompson’s made shots in Thursday’s loss came during his extended run in the third quarter. He finished 3-for-11 from the field (2-for-7 from 3) — the worst shooting performance of his three games so far — but connected on 3 of 7 attempts in the third quarter and scored nine of his 11 total points.