Klay Thompson Defends Jamal Murray's Injury Rehab, Says Criticism Is 'Just Unfair'

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVApril 23, 2022

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 15:  Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors and Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets look on during the game on January 15, 2019 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)
Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson spoke out in support of Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray on Thursday.

Speaking to Mike Singer of the Denver Post prior to Golden State's Game 3 win over the Nuggets in their first-round playoff series, Thompson expressed understanding for what Murray is going through in his recovery from a torn ACL:

"It's just unfair to him, man. What is it, less than a year? And you're thrown into a playoff series? You can't simulate that. It was hard enough to simulate a regular-season game. I couldn't even imagine not playing basketball for a year and then thrown into a situation where you're down [in the playoffs].

"It's just, I feel for him, man. Fans are kind of unrealistic. They don't realize how much it takes to build back your muscle to be able to compete at this level. This is the best basketball in the world. You don't want to put your whole future at risk just because of win right now. He's only, what, 25? What are we doing here?"

Murray tore his ACL last April against the Warriors, and while there was hope that he would be able to return and play at some point this season, the former University of Kentucky star has been unable to do so.

Earlier this week, Murray tweeted the following, which suggests he may have been reacting to negative opinions on social media regarding his injury and recovery:

If anyone knows what Murray is going through, it is Thompson, as he missed the entire 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons because of injury.

After tearing his ACL during the 2019 NBA Finals, Thompson was not able to play at all during the 2019-20 campaign. Things got even worse for Thompson the following season, as he tore his Achilles while preparing for his on-court return.

Without Thompson in the fold, the Warriors missed the playoffs two years in a row on the heels of reaching five consecutive NBA Finals.

Thompson was able to overcome the setbacks and appear in 32 games this season, though, averaging 20.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.6 three-pointers made and 2.8 assists per contest.

With Thompson, Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Co. firing on all cylinders, the Warriors have staked a 3-0 series lead over the Nuggets and are perhaps well on their way to getting back to the NBA Finals for the first time in three years.

While reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic helped get the Nuggets to the playoffs as the No. 6 seed this season, it was clear that Denver was going to have an uphill battle against Golden State with no Murray.

Murray is one of the most promising, young guards in the NBA, and he played close to an All-Star level last season, averaging a career-high 21.2 points, 4.8 assists, 2.7 three-pointers made and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Taking the next step would have seen Murray become an All-Star and perhaps help push the Nuggets into championship contention, but an injury derailed that possibility.

One thing Murray can hang his hat on, however, is the fact that Thompson has returned and played as well as ever after missing two seasons, which lends hope to Murray returning and playing at a high level next season.