The Golden State Warriors are looking to make an unlikely climb into the Western Conference's top six, so the return of veteran point guard Chris Paul, who has been out due to a hand injury since early January, could not have come at a much better time. On Tuesday night, Paul finally returned to the hardwood after a 21-game absence, tallying nine points and six assists in 22 minutes in a 123-112 win over the Washington Wizards.

Paul may no longer be the player he once was during his heyday, but his return gives the Warriors a stout defensive presence at the point of attack, a vocal leader, and a playmaker off the bench who should have natural synergy with the team's newest sixth man, Klay Thompson. But more than anything, the 38-year old floor general cherished the mere fact that he was able to return to the hardwood after a lengthy absence.

“It just felt really nice to get out there and play again. It's tough. It's been a grind. This is my fifth hand surgery so I'm probably just more grateful to all of the people who helped me get back to the court,” Paul said in his postgame presser, via Kendra Andrews of ESPN.

Chris Paul is not getting any younger; he is definitely close to the end of his career, and he remains in defiant pursuit of his elusive first-ever championship ring. For the 2023-24 Warriors, however, there's no time like the present to ramp up their level of play, lest they risk missing out on the postseason festivities entirely.

There is plenty of reason to be hopeful about the Warriors' chances of at least securing a more favorable spot in the play-in tournament. At present, they only sit 2.5 games behind the Dallas Mavericks for the eighth spot, which at least guarantees two tries at making the playoffs.

Can they catch the Mavericks? With Chris Paul's return, the Warriors certainly have a greater chance to do so than they had when he was out due to injury. And with Klay Thompson looking more and more like the Klay of old in a bench role, things are looking up for the battle-tested Dubs.