Key Warriors Role Player Clarifies Intense Exchange With Steve Kerr

Gary Payton Jr., right, of the Warriors

Getty Gary Payton Jr., right, of the Warriors

The exchange came in the first half on Friday, during the Warriors’ impressive demolition of the Suns, the leaders of the NBA Western Conference. It was easy to overlook because of the importance of the win and, also, because of the disappointing way the Warriors coughed up their momentum by dropping Saturday’s game against the Spurs.

Still, it’s worth revisiting because it could be a key moment for a bench player the Warriors have come to lean on more than expected. With 36.8 seconds to play in the half, Chris Paul of the Suns leapt for a rebound off a miss from the Warriors’ Jordan Poole. Guard Gary Payton Jr. came flying in from under the basket and caught Paul on the head with, it appeared, an elbow.

Paul, as he is wont to do, crumpled to the floor and played up the contact to the refs. Payton was whistled for a foul, and the whole play was a poor decision on his part—the Suns were over the limit and Paul knocked down a pair of free throws.

Coach Steve Kerr saw a teachable moment, grabbing Payton on the sidelines and having an intense discussion with him. It ended with an encouraging pat on the chest, but it was clear that Kerr was annoyed.

Speaking on the Warriors’ postgame show, Payton clarified the exchange.

“He just told me to play smart, you know, be smart with my fouls,” Payton said. “If I can’t be smart with my fouls I’m not going to be able to play. So, second half, I listened, tried to play with my hands behind my back and not try to foul. We know Chris [Paul’s] gamesmanship and what he likes to do. Just trying to play without fouling.”

Payton Has Excelled as a 3-Point Shooter

Payton played a solid 26:25 in the win over Phoenix and, arguably, should have played more than the 12:40 worth of playing time he got against San Antonio. That’s because the starting five of the Warriors was generally awful on Saturday night, combining to shoot just 37.5% from the field and 34.5% from the 3-point line.

Payton made three of his five 3-point attempts against the Suns but did not shoot one against San Antonio. The Warriors have only lost fur games so, obviously, it is a small sample size, but Payton is 0-for-3 on 3-pointers in the team’s losses and 12-for-27 (44.4%) in its wins. That has been a big change for Payton, who was a 26.7% 3-point shooter entering this season.

Gary Payton II 19 pts 3 threes 5 rebs vs Suns 21/22 seasonGo To for basketball training equipment. If you enjoyed this video, please consider supporting my channel. Go To: Patrons of the channel: Tobiasz Mróz, Coach G, Cholker, Soulful Crow, Andrew, Johnny Tran, W G DISCLAIMER – All clips property of the NBA. No copyright infringement is intended, all videos are edited to follow…2021-12-04T07:41:19Z

It is clear he has been working at it.

“Every day, night and day,” he said. “Corner 3s, right above the break, just repetition. Lotta 3s, lotta standstill 3s, catch-and-shoot 3s. Coaching staff and teammates just telling me, shoot it with confidence. I am not thinking about it. Just throwing them up.”

Payton’s Aim: ‘Be Great in My Role’

Payton has been understanding of his inconsistent playing time, though Kerr has come to play him more even in big situations. Payton’s defense and shooting have been outstanding, and he has had numerous momentum-changing dunks over the course of the season.

He has been a journeyman in his career to this point, and he knows he might only have a small part on the star-studded Warriors. But he’s trying to make the most of whatever part he’s being asked to play.

“Be great in my role, that’s it,” GPII said. “Go in with energy and effort every time, no matter if it is 20 minutes or four seconds. Go in, try to make a play for my team, just try to cause havoc and change the game and momentum for my team.”


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