Breakout Warriors Guard Dishes on Potential Conference Finals Return

Gary Payton II Warriors-Hawks

Getty Golden State Warriors guard Gary Payton II battles for possession of the ball during a bout with the Atlanta Hawks.

Following a difficult series with the Grizz, the Golden State Warriors are now just four wins away from punching their ticket to the NBA Finals. And after the events of Sunday, they now know the team they’ll have to beat in order to book a return to the championship round — the Dallas Mavericks.

Thanks to Luka Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie, who scored a combined 65 points in the contest, the Mavs were able to blow out the Suns in Phoenix to the tune of a 123-90 Game 7 win.

While Dallas has gained steam with each passing postseason game, the Warriors have to feel good about their chances, especially given their home-court advantage in the series. However, they’ll be missing at least one of their key players when the Western Conference Finals tip-off on Wednesday in Gary Payton II.

The breakout baller has been on the shelf since suffering an elbow fracture at the hands of Grizzlies wing Dillon Brooks during Game 2 of the West semis. However, Payton himself — along with Dubs coach Steve Kerr — has left the door open for a return at some point against the Mavs.

Payton Speaks Out on the Possibility of a WCF Return

Dillon Brooks EJECTED For This Hard Foul on Gary Payton II 👀Golden State Warriors vs Memphis Grizzlies – Full Game 2 Highlights | May 3, 2022 | West Semis, 2022 NBA Playoffs 📌 SHOP OUR MERCH: 📌 Follow our Instagram: 📌 Follow our TikTok: 📌 Follow our Facebook: #HouseofHighlights #NBA #HoH2022-05-04T01:52:08Z

During his post-practice media availability on Sunday, Kerr did his best to temper expectations on a possible Payton return. That said, he stopped short of saying that the defensive guru would be unable to return to the court at some point during the forthcoming series.

“We’re not ruling him out of the whole conference finals,” Kerr said. “We’re not saying he’s going to play either. It would be a long shot for him to play, but I think it’s a possibility.”

For his part, Payton offered at least a small semblance of hope that he could come back at some point and aid in the effort to slow Doncic, Dinwiddie and Jalen Brunson.

“Time, clearly just time,” Payton said when asked what it will take to get him back on the court. “Getting better every day, it’s feeling better every day. But it’s gonna take time. We’re not trying to put a date on when I can or when I can’t or whatever. So, just taking it one day at a time…”

Payton had been one of the more impactful players on the floor for the Dubs during postseason play before getting hurt. His net rating of 5.8 is actually the fourth-best mark team-wide during the playoffs, and a number that places him ahead of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole.

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Payton on the Foul That Caused His Injury

In the wake of Payton’s injury, Brooks was the subject of intense criticism all over the hoops blogosphere. And, for his part, Coach Kerr opined that the Grizzlies star had “broken the code” with his hit job, which resulted in a flagrant foul call and a one-game suspension.

However, when Payton was asked for his thoughts on the play, his response was surprisingly measured for a player who will have lost a significant chunk of his first, big playoff run by the time he returns (if he can return at all.)

“NBA playoff foul. That’s about it,” Payton said when asked about the controversial play. “It is what it is — it happened, I just didn’t catch myself. Things happen, but it’s past me, it’s behind me. I’m just trying to work and continue to strengthen my arm and get it back ready and come back and help my team.”


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