OAKLAND, Calif. - The guy nicknamed the baby-faced assassin had his fellow Splash Brother back in the fold Thursday night, making the Warriors' talented All-Star backcourt whole again in time for the NBA Finals.
In fact, the Warriors' Stephen Curry and the Cavaliers' LeBron James each welcomed his top sidekick back into the fold before their highly anticipated best-of-seven series, which tipped off at Oracle Arena Thursday night.
Golden State's Klay Thompson put his concussion behind him and was in the starting lineup alongside Curry. Kyrie Irving started at his customary point guard spot for the Cavaliers, looking to reassert himself despite battling through a strained right foot and tendinitis in his left knee.
Both were fortunate that there was a layoff of more than a week leading up to the Finals.
"I expect to play to my full potential tonight," Thompson told reporters at Golden State's morning shootaround. "This week off really helped. I took two days off after the last game we had, did some neurological testing and passed. I was able to practice fully the last three days and feel great. It's not going to hold me back. I'm ready to go."
Thompson was accidentally kneed in the head by the Rockets' Trevor Ariza in the deciding game of the Western Conference finals and headed to the locker room to get checked out after the nasty-looking play. He was cleared to go back in the game, but things quickly changed when blood started dripping out of his right ear.
Though he participated in the Warriors' celebration after the May 27 game and appeared coherent during his postgame interviews, Thompson wasn't able to drive himself home and asked his father, Mychal, to chauffeur him. Mychal Thompson reported that his son vomited and showed "concussion-like symptoms'' that night.
But he started feeling better the next day and was able to return to practice Monday. He officially was cleared to play on Tuesday after going through his second straight practice without any setbacks and passing the neurological examination set forth in the NBA's concussion guidelines.
"We have a protocol in place and a prominent national neurologist who is in charge on behalf of the league in setting that protocol," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said before the game, "just so no particular team feels pressured to go outside of a set of rules and get that player back on the floor."
Irving sat out Games 2 and 3 of the Cavaliers' sweep of the Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals but played in Game 4. He's had eight days off since the end of that series.
Irving said in the days leading up to Thursday night that he planned to will himself through the injury, which might challenge his ability to cut the way he usually does and make it more difficult to blow past defenders with his killer crossover.
"It's definitely tough because obviously, mentally and physically, you want to be in line," Irving said. "It's just like some of the things I'm thinking about doing mentally, you know, your body just kind of stops and you catch yourself a little bit sometimes. You've got to get off the ball. But for me, it's just about finding my spots and seeing where I could be more effective out there for my teammates."