One game after his teammate Kevin Durant ruptured his Achilles tendon, Klay Thompson tore his left ACL in a awkward landing after being fouled on a dunk attempt.
“You got to be kidding me, like this has to stop,” head coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “But it’s just the way it’s gone. I don’t know if it’s related to five straight seasons of playing a hundred plus games and just all the wear and tear, but it’s devastating.”
The severity of the injury initially wasn’t clear because Thompson returned to the floor to shoot his two free throws and he jogged down the floor in an attempt to stay in the game. He was also visibly upset when the Warriors fouled so he could be subbed out.
“As a guy who’s been with Klay for seven years, I don’t know many people with as much heart as Klay,” Draymond Green said after the game. "If they would have let him stay out there he would have stayed. That’s just who he is. You see him try to run back down the floor like, what are you doing? But that’s Klay.”
The Warriors lost Game 6 to the Toronto Raptors, giving Toronto their first ever NBA championship.
Thompson’s injury didn’t just cost Golden State a chance at another title. It put the team’s future in doubt and it shook up the NBA’s upcoming free agency period by removing yet another player from the mix.
Unlike Durant, Thompson is expected to return at some point next season, but he may not return until the second half of the season. Teams with money may feel fine throwing a max contract his way and testing the Warriors financial resolve, but not many teams can afford to have their new star miss most of a season.
Similar to the Durant situation, though, is the question of how many star free agents are willing to go to a team and hold the fort on their own while the other star rehabs and injury. How willing is a player in his prime to give up a season of his own playing on a team he has to carry with little help?
Even if Thompson stays, his injury could re-shape the NBA just by teams seeing a clearer path to a title. Teams that may not have made moves for fear of running up against the Warriors wall now may be inspired to sign players or make trades they might not have earlier this week. The NBA suddenly feels more wide open, so a summer already expected to be crazy could get even wilder with surprise teams making moves.
It will also be interesting to see how players run their own business after having watched two major stars go down with catastrophic injuries within days of each other. How tempted will players be to sign short-term contracts in order to manipulate futures rather than sign long-term deals? Some could be scared into the security of four and five-year contracts.
We won’t know the answers until free agency is over, but we do know the landscape has changed, and it changed quickly.