Draymond Green wasn’t about to let an injury keep him from sharing the floor with Klay Thompson.
On Sunday night, Thompson returned to the Warriors lineup for the first time in 941 days. The 31-year-old sniper missed consecutive seasons after sustaining ACL and Achilles tendon injuries, and missed the first 38 games of Golden State’s 2021-22 campaign while recovering.
The Warriors-Cavaliers showdown was set to bring Green Bay Area’s “Big Three” back together, Thompson and Stephen Curry, but an unfortunate injury ruined the long-awaited reunion. Golden State announced shortly before kickoff that Green had experienced “tightness in the left calf” during pregame warm-ups, and it looked like he would be forced to sit down.
But the Thompson moment was too important for Green to miss. He decided to take the floor for the opening tip, and immediately made a foul to be replaced. Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters after the game that he had explained the plan to Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff, and Cleveland agreed to let the opening sequence play out that way.
Draymond Green won’t be playing tonight (left calf strain), but he still wanted to be on the court with Klay for his return.
So Green was there for the opening tip and fouled to be able to withdraw from the game ❤️ pic.twitter.com/puAzOy3rxe
– ESPN (@espn) January 10, 2022
“[It meant] much,” thompson said when asked about Green’s gesture. “I mean, I can’t wait to play Dray again. It makes my life so much easier when it comes to hunting shots and playing defense. We’ve been on top of the mountain together. We’ve been through some crazy battles. I love Draymond’s competitiveness, and it felt good to have the team almost complete again.
“I have so much history with Steph and Dray that it was really cool to sit there with those two before the game and soak it up.”
Thompson finished with 17 points on 7-of-18 shooting in the Warriors’ 96-82 win over the Cavs, but he wasn’t overly concerned about his numbers. He was happy to “even look at the stat sheet and see my name there.”
“I am so grateful to be racing again,” Thompson said. “It has been a long road. I am also proud of myself for persevering. It was a very special moment. [that] I will never forget. It was, I’m not going to say equivalent to winning a championship, but man, it was pretty close. … Just being able to go out there and shoot the ball, play defense and compete, I mean man, it was special. “