Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is confident Klay Thompson will be ready Thursday night for Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
So much so, Kerr said he isn't even considering the possibility of juggling his starting-five without his team's second-leading scorer — though he clearly was enjoying a light moment with the media.
“I haven't even thought about it,” Kerr joked Saturday about a possible Plan B sans Thompson. “The series is what, like, five weeks away. We've got plenty of time to think about that … [but] there is [a Plan B]. There has to be.”
Indeed, the 6-foot-7 sweet-shooting swingman's concussion-status will remain a primary focus in the buildup to the series opener.
Kerr appeared relaxed, saying Thompson was doing well and making progress as he properly followed the league's concussion protocol. He mentioned several times that he expects Thompson to be available against Cleveland.
“Klay's disposition never changes,” he said. “He's mellow, takes it all in stride. It's good to have the [NBA Finals-record week-long] break, and he has the time to go through what he needs to.”
Kerr also described the chaotic scene after Thompson's head injury and right ear laceration in the Game 5 clincher. The Warriors' doctors cleared Thompson to play — a decision that is being debated publicly after Thompson vomited and developed concussion-type symptoms following the game. Kerr said he never considered re-inserting him because the Warriors had built a large lead.
“We were rolling with the group we had in,” Kerr said of an infrequently used lineup that included Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli. “[Klay] came out to the bench, and all I remember was how [assistant coach] Luke Walton looks at him and says 'I think his ear is bleeding.' Then, he goes back to locker room, and by time he comes back out, there was five minutes left. And we were just going to stay with that group regardless.”
Hypothetically, though, what might happen if Thompson is forced to sit? Or if he struggles?
Obvious possibilities are Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, given the defensive versatility and prowess of each in the equation of defending LeBron James. Livingston, then with Brooklyn, matched up frequently against James in last year's playoffs and was praised for limiting his dominance. Iguodala is only days removed from Game 5 against James Harden, where his on-ball defense helped force the MVP runnerup into a playoff-record 13 turnovers.
But given Kerr's typical first-half rotation — Curry usually plays the entire first quarter, with Thompson getting a breather for the final few minutes of the quarter before re-entering to open the second, at which point Curry rests — it would seem Thompson's replacement might approximate his outside-shooting role. Veteran Leandro Barbosa, a microwave scorer with his own fairly-consistent green-light, seems to best fit that bill, and would allow the positional flexibility of Livingston and Iguodala to match-up situationally with the Cavs coming off the bench.
In the regular season, Thompson missed five games. Barbosa and, later, Justin Holiday got starts in his place. Kerr said Holiday “absolutely” could see minutes while saying, “Obviously, Barbosa's been the guy we go to in a pinch, and he'll play a huge role, anyways. We have a lot of depth on the wing, a lot of possibilities.”
Plan A remains the one Kerr embraces. But Plan B is on his mind, regardless of what he says.