Warriors Tease Major Status Change for Lockdown Ace Ahead of Game 2

Gary Payton II Warriors NBA Finals

Getty Golden State Warriors guard Gary Payton II addresses reporters during NBA Finals Media Day 2022.

The Golden State Warriors clearly lacked some shot-making down the stretch of their Game 1 loss to the Boston Celtics on Thursday but, in the end, it was the team’s defense that really fell short. The Celtics were allowed to score 40 points during the decisive final frame, knocking down 9-of-12 shots from three-point range along the way.

Clearly, the Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Derrick White-led unit had figured something out, but the Dubs were also failing on a massive scale to rotate, help and close out on shooters.

Without question, the team could have benefited from the on-court presence of their lockdown ace in Gary Payton II. But the recovering guard remained glued to the bench as the sordid affair unfolded.

That may not be the case when the title series resumes on Sunday night with Game 2, though.

Payton Says He’s ‘Ready to Go’

Should the Warriors Play Gary Payton II in Game 2? His Dad Sure Thinks So | The Rich Eisen ShowBasketball Hall of Famer Gary Payton tells Rich Eisen why his son Gary Payton II should be in the court for the W’s and if his flagrant foul elbow injury was the result of a dirty play. Watch the Rich Eisen Show, an Emmy-nominated sports talk show, streaming live on NBC's Peacock, Audacy, and SiriusXM…2022-06-05T15:30:05Z

On Saturday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr left the door wide open for Payton to make his long-awaited playoff return, saying, “I anticipate that he will be available for more than that [on Sunday], because the last couple of days have gone pretty well and he’s feeling better.”

Payton hasn’t so much as sniffed the hardwood since Game 2 of the Warriors’ Round 2 series against the Grizzlies on May 3. During the opening moments of that contest, he suffered a fractured elbow on a flagrant foul by Grizz wing Dillon Brooks.

The 29-year-old indicated that the injury was firmly in his rearview on the eve of Game 2, however.

“I’m available, ready to go, just waiting on the call,” declared Payton after Saturday’s practice. “Just been soreness and stuff for the last few weeks. But like I said, we got a couple more games, so I’ll figure it out. I’m ready to go.”

Payton averaged 7.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals with shooting splits of 62-36-60 over 71 regular-season contests with Golden State in 2021-22.

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Payton Holds No Ill Will for His Injury

In the immediate aftermath of Payton’s injury, Brooks essentially became the villain of the Warriors’ postseason. And there’s no doubting that his actions impacted the current run in a major way. For his part, though, Payton doesn’t look to be sweating what happened.

From the baller’s recent Players’ Tribune article:

I had a lot of people pissed on my behalf. And I love them for that. But I was good.

I kept trying to tell everyone: You know who I am, right? It’s like … out for three to five weeks? Come on now. I’ve been through way worse than that as a basketball player. I’ve been scrapping for six years trying to break into the league. So a few weeks was never going to get me down.

And like I said — s**t happens. Time to move on.


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