Klay Thompson admits he’ll never be his peak 2019 self again.

Klay Thompson admits he will never return to his 2019 version of himself truly appeared on NBC Sports Bay area

Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors, NBA Finals

Everyone who saw Klay Thompson play basketball during the 2018-19 season and into the NBA playoffs knew he was in his prime.

The Warriors guard was in his prime, and he was flying high during the 2019 NBA Finals, when the lights were the brightest.

Until Danny Green threw him to the court in Game 6 of the Finals, the final game at Oracle Arena.

Thompson’s surge came to an end at that moment, marking the start of a 31-month layoff as he recovered from a torn left ACL sustained on that play, followed by a torn right Achilles sustained just a year later.

So, will Thompson ever be able to play at the level he did against the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals? That appears to be his goal, but he admitted in an exclusive interview with ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that he knows it’s an unattainable one.

“2019 was the best I’ve ever felt. I know I’ll never get back there, but even if I only get to 90%, I’ll be a hell of a player “Thompson informed Shelburne. “They’re still a championship team.”

It’s unclear when Thompson made those remarks to Shelburne, but just a few weeks ago, he debated the state of his game with Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Charles Barkley.

Thompson returned to the NBA last season on January 9, and he played in 32 regular-season games and all 22 playoff games, helping the Warriors win their fourth title in eight seasons. And he performed admirably, averaging 19.0 points on 43 percent shooting from the field and 38.5 percent from beyond the arc.

Thompson, however, did not play any basketball during the summer after the Warriors’ championship parade in San Francisco. He was unable to participate in any pick-up games due to a mental block caused by his Achilles injury. His first game action came in Golden State’s preseason finale on Oct. 14.

Thompson has started slowly this season after not playing much basketball for the better part of four months. He’s only averaging 14.7 points per game. If he finishes the season with those numbers, his shooting percentages from the field (35.1) and from 3-point range (33 percent) will be the lowest of his NBA career.

Early-season struggles, combined with a poor performance and subsequent ejection against the Phoenix Suns on Oct. 25, prompted Barkley, a longtime critic of the Warriors, to say on “Inside the NBA” that Thompson and teammate Draymond Green are “slipping.”

“There was a time when Klay Thompson was the best two-way guard in the NBA, and he’s not the same guy anymore, and that’s due to injuries,” Barkley explained. “Has he finished? No, I don’t believe he’s finished. I believe he is slowing down and that it is catching up with him. That’s why he’s upset.”

Thompson and the Warriors were not pleased when they heard those remarks. Two days later, following a victory over the Miami Heat, the five-time All-Star used the final 90 seconds of his postgame press conference to specifically mention Barkley.

Thompson told reporters at Chase Center, “I’ve got one thing to say.” “So it hurts when someone like Charles Barkley, with his platform, says you’re not the same player you were before your injuries.” ‘No, duh, man,’ it’s like. I tore my ACL and Achilles in consecutive years and still contributed to the team’s championship win. Hearing that hurt because I had worked so hard to get back to this point. It’s difficult to put into words what I had to go through to become the player I am today.

“In three years, I played 55, 57 games. Give me some freaking time to retrieve that. Hearing someone say, “Oh, he’s not the same player he was before the injuries.” Of course. Who goes through that and returns?… I don’t know, it just broke my heart to hear that. But, you know, I’m going to internalize it and use it as fuel to become even better. I’m very proud of what we accomplished last year, and I believe I played a significant role in it. I’m not going to use my injuries as a crutch. I’m just going to keep going and have a fantastic year. You can count on it.”

Thompson’s ambition is to regain his peak performance levels. A part of him thinks it’s possible. After all, he is a professional athlete of the highest caliber. He has a drive that most people will never understand or obtain.

But, in the back of his mind, Thompson knows that after the two major injuries he’s dealt with, becoming 2019 Klay again is out of the question. At the time of the first injury, he was 29 years old. He is 32 years old and will turn 33 in February. Father Time, on the other hand, is not on his side.

However, the Warriors will gladly accept 90 percent of Thompson’s performance in the 2019 NBA Finals. He was probably not at 100% during the June playoffs, but he still played a significant role in series victories over the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, and Boston Celtics.

The current season is only a month old, so Thompson has plenty of time to prepare for what he expects to be peak Klay in 2022-23  Klay. It won’t be 2019 Klay. However, with the emergence of Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole as scoring threats, the Warriors may not need Thompson to go above and beyond his capabilities.

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