Ex-Warriors Fave, 2022 NBA Champ Nearing Long-Awaited Return: Insider

Gary Payton II Blazers

Getty Former Golden state Warriors guard Gary Payton II poses for a photo during Portland Trail Blazers Media Day 2022.

After a particularly rough start to their 2022-23, the Golden State Warriors are finally showing real signs that they could still get back into the title race this season. One of the biggest factors in that turnaround has been an uptick in the second unit.

In the team’s weekend win over the Boston Celtics, backup guard Donte DiVincenzo logged a team-best plus-20 in the plus/minus department. Meanwhile, former No. 7 overall pick Jonathan Kuminga contributed 14 points, five boards and three assists during his run off the bench.

Still, one can’t help but wonder where the Dubs might be had they kept super-sub Gary Payton II from joining the Portland Trail Blazers over the summer.

Alas, Golden State was unable to match the three-year, $26 million deal Portland offered Payton due to its wild luxury tax situation. Despite his exit, though, Payton continues to be a Bay Area fave. As such, fans are pulling for the baller to make the most of his opportunity in the Pacific Northwest.

To that end, the baller and his fans look to be nearing a landmark moment in their mutual journey.

Shams Drops Update on Payton’s Blazers Debut

It had been expected that Payton would be ready sooner rather than later after he underwent core muscle surgery over the summer. And the Blazers were definitely counting on the baller to fill an important role for them this season. As of this writing, though, the 30-year-old has yet to even suit up for his new club.

Payton’s long road back to the hardwood finally looks to be nearing its end, however, according to The Athletic‘s Shams Charania.

“Trail Blazers guard Gary Payton II is targeting his season debut in the next one to two weeks,” Charania reported.

Payton has ramped up his activity level as of late, going so far as to participate in three-on-three action during Portland’s practices. Meanwhile, Blazers coach Chauncey Billups is finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel (and he’s clearly stoked about it).

“He was pretty sore after he plays, but I’m just happy to see him on the court,” Billups said, via CBS Sports. “I’m happy to see him on the court, which means obviously he’s getting closer.”

Payton Never Wanted to Leave the Dubs

The sad side of Payton’s continuing journey — at least for Dub Nation — is that the lockdown ace never even wanted to leave the Bay. In his mind, he had finally found his hardwood home when he earned a full-time roster spot with the Warriors in 2021-22.

When push came to shove during free agency, though, he had to do what was right for himself and his family financially.

“I had to take the money,” Payton II told former NBA coach George Karl in August. “I had to take the money… It didn’t work out. I would love to go back to Golden State, but it didn’t work out. Just the timing and everything. Just a business deal, and I just had to take the money.”

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