Draymond Green wasn’t going to let an injury prevent him from sharing the court with Klay Thompson.
On Sunday night, Thompson returned to the Warriors’ lineup for the first time in 941 days. The 31-year-old sharpshooter missed back-to-back seasons after suffering ACL and Achillies injuries, and he sat out the first 38 games of Golden State’s 2021-22 campaign as he worked himself back into shape.
The matchup between the Warriors and Cavaliers was set bring the Bay Area’s “Big Three” of Green, Thompson and Stephen Curry back together, but an unfortunate injury spoiled the long-awaited reunion. Golden State announced shortly before tipoff that Green had experienced “left calf tightness” during pregame warmups, and it appeared that he would be forced to sit out.
But Thompson’s moment was too important for Green to miss. He decided to take the floor for the opening tip, then immediately commit a foul in order to be subbed out. Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters after the game that he had explained the plan to Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff, and Cleveland agreed to let the opening sequence play out that way.
Draymond Green is not playing tonight (left calf tightness), but he still wanted to be on the floor with Klay for his return.
So Green was there for the opening tip and took a foul so he could check out of the game ❤️ pic.twitter.com/puAzOy3rxe
— ESPN (@espn) January 10, 2022
“[It meant] so much,” Thompson said when asked about Green’s gesture. “I mean, I can’t wait to play with Dray again. He makes my life so much easier as far as hunting shots and playing defense. We’ve been at the mountaintop together. We’ve been through some crazy battles. I love Draymond’s competitiveness, and it just felt good to have the almost, nearly full squad again.
“I got such a history with Steph and Dray that it was really cool just to sit there with those two before the game and soak it all in.”
Thompson finished with 17 points on 7-of-18 shooting in the Warriors’ 96-82 win over the Cavs, but he wasn’t too concerned about his numbers. He was just happy to “even look at the stat sheet and see my name there.”
“I’m so grateful to just compete again,” Thompson said. “It’s been a long road. I’m just also proud of myself for persevering. It was a very special moment [that] I’ll never forget. It was, I’m not gonna say equivalent to winning a championship, but man, it was pretty freaking close. … Just to be able to go out there and shoot the ball, play defense and compete, I mean, man, it was special.”