Warriors News: Gary Payton II Could Return from Injury During West Finals, per Kerr

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMay 15, 2022

Golden State Warriors guard Gary Payton II (0) against the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA basketball game in San Francisco, Thursday, April 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Golden State Warriors guard Gary Payton II may have a chance to play at some point during the Western Conference Finals.

According to ESPN's Kendra Andrews, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr left the door open for Payton's return, saying: "It would be a long shot for him to play, but I think it's a possibility."

Payton suffered a fractured elbow during Game 2 of the Warriors' second-round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies on a hard foul by Dillon Brooks, resulting in Brooks' ejection.

At the time, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (h/t Andrews) reported that Payton was expected to miss about a month, but there was a possibility he could return during the NBA Finals if Golden State were to advance that far.

The prevailing thought seemed to be that the foul that injured Payton was a dirty play, but the son of Basketball Hall of Famer Gary Payton doesn't think so.

According to Andrews, Payton said Sunday that it was an "NBA playoff foul" before adding: "Just didn't catch myself. And then you know, things happen. But it's past me, behind me."

Payton is among the NBA's most hard-nosed players, and he is a hugely important role player for the Warriors because of his perimeter defense and shooting efficiency.

In his sixth NBA season, the 29-year-old veteran set career highs nearly across the board, appearing in 71 regular-season games during the 2021-22 campaign.

He averaged 7.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 0.9 assists, while shooting 61.6 percent from the floor and 35.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Payton was also performing at a high level during the playoffs before getting injured with 6.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game in seven contests. He also shot a remarkable 72.7 percent from the field and 75.0 percent from long range.

While Payton has been a significant loss, the Warriors have persevered thanks to having one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the NBA.

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole continue to be the top contributors, with Otto Porter Jr., Kevon Looney, Jonathan Kuminga and several others pitching in as well.

By virtue of eliminating the Grizzlies in Game 6, the Warriors advanced to the Western Conference Finals, marking the deepest they have gone since reaching five straight NBA Finals from 2015 to 2019.

Golden State is now awaiting its conference finals opponent, which will be either the Phoenix Suns or Dallas Mavericks, who will meet in Game 7 of their second-round series Sunday.