Ever since Klay Thompson tore his left ACL four months ago, the Warriors guard has held out hope that he could return this season in time for a potential NBA playoff run.
His coach, however, isn't betting on that timeline.
"It's unlikely that he's going to play this year," Steve Kerr recently told NBC Sports Bay Area in an exclusive interview that will air at 1 p.m. PT Tuesday in "NBA Season Tip-Off," only on the MyTeams app. "So we have to understand that."
Thompson, who suffered the knee injury during Game 6 of the NBA Finals, had surgery July 2, and has said he hopes to play after the NBA All-Star break in February. Recent history, however, suggests that might not be possible.
Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine sat out 11 months with a similar injury, and Atlanta Hawks forward Jabari Parker missed nearly a year. Kerr, who tore his ACL in college, believes Thompson will be on the same timeline as those players.
"You have to look at it realistically," the Warriors coach said. "I had an ACL [tear] in college, and I missed a whole season. Generally, an ACL for a basketball player is a full-year recovery, and if it's a full year for Klay, that puts them out for the season.
"We've kind of left the door open in case the rehab goes perfectly and the doctors say he can go. But the reality is, on April 1, that’s the nine-month mark. ... April versus nine months post-op for an ACL.
"We have to prepare our young guys to fill that role behind him, and when he gets back, whenever that is, hopefully these young guys now are developed and in the rotation and ready to really be contributors on a playoff team and we can get better," Kerr added.
Thompson has been visible around the team in recent weeks. Following Sunday's practice, he stood along the baseline as players wrapped up individual workouts. Thompson hasn’t missed more than nine games in an NBA season, so the prolonged absence has been an adjustment for him.
"He's bored," Kerr said. "I mean, Klay loves basketball, he loves to play, so he's at the point in his rehab, three-plus months in, where his knee feels pretty good. He's not in pain. He can get out there and shoot around, but he's got to let it heal, and he can't run, he can't cut. So we'll see him in the weight room, in the training room, getting his work in.
"But I feel bad for him. You never feel part of it unless you're actually playing and with the guys, and he misses that."
Kerr and the Warriors find themselves in transition entering this season. With Thompson's absence, along Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala's departure and eight new roster additions, Kerr is adjusting to Golden State's new life in the NBA.
"It's very different," Kerr admitted. "There's a lot more teaching this year than there has been in the last five. Things that the last group would have known in their sleep, these young guys have never seen before, and so we are literally going back to the basics day in and day out."