SAN FRANCISCO -- Klay Thompson is stressing about staying in the moment. After Sunday's practice, the Golden State Warriors star barely even wanted to look ahead to Monday's pivotal Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. Instead, he tried to stay locked in on what treatment needed to be done and what other practice he wanted to do.
But just for a moment, he let himself escape the present. He didn't look forward, though. He looked back.
Three years ago Monday, Thompson tore his left ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors. He didn't know it at the time, but that ended up being the last game he would play for 941 days.
"Wow, what a time. Three years ago," Thompson said as he thought back to that moment. He wasn't aware that Monday marks the three-year anniversary until a reporter pointed it out to him. "That -- wow. It just goes by fast."
After he tore his ACL -- which happened when he landed after attempting a contested shot against Danny Green -- Thompson went back to the Warriors hallway for several minutes. He reemerged to take two free throws.
"I just thought, I don't want to leave these points on the board, man," said Thompson, who hit both foul shots to bring his point total to 30. "This is the Finals. I'm going to go get this 30-ball."
He tried running down the court on the next play, and that's when it became apparent he needed to exit the game.
"I never had such a severe injury, so I didn't think it was that serious," Thompson said. "I thought I might have sprained something in my knee. But you know, when you're in the championship and you're playing in front of our fans, your adrenaline is so high that you kind of disregard anything that makes sense -- and running around on a torn ACL doesn't make very good sense."
This time last year, Thompson was just starting to run again after tearing his right Achilles tendon, which happened shortly before the 2020-21 season. Thompson said he didn't even see last year's Finals because it was too painful to watch.
Thompson is usually a stoic player who seldom appears to run too hot or cold. But his emotions have been well-documented over the past three years, whether it was him sitting on the bench an hour after the final buzzer of a game with a towel draped over his head or him kicking chairs on the sidelines when he couldn't be on the court helping his teammates.
This three-year anniversary also marks the end of an era for the Warriors. It's the day their aspirations for a three-peat championship died. It's the last time Kevin Durant sported a Golden State jersey. It was their final game at Oracle Arena in Oakland. And it was the moment that a mini rebuild started for the organization.
"To think it's three years ago and all that we've been through, all that Klay has been through personally since that time, and to be back here, it adds a sense of gratitude of being back on this stage," Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. "That chapter will always be part of our journey, for sure. That's something we'll probably talk about for a very long time. Hopefully, we can get this job done and pay homage to that three-year journey actually leading to something truly special."
A win on Monday will put the Warriors one victory away from achieving that goal. But Golden State is trying not to look too far ahead. "One game at a time" has been their mantra since the start of the season, and as what happened three years ago taught them, anything can happen.
That being said, will the Warriors take a moment to reflect back on their journey?
"Maybe for a second," Thompson said. "But when I step on that court, I want to win by any means necessary. I don't care how ugly or pretty it is. Let's just win and protect our home court. I'm not going to sing 'Kumbaya' or anything. I just want to frigging win."