The Golden State Warriors are locked in their conference finals clash against the Dallas Mavericks. A resounding Game 1 win is a huge first step toward returning to the NBA Finals after a 2-year hiatus. Moreso, doing so without one of their key rotation players, Gary Payton II.
The 29-year-old guard finally broke the 30-game threshold in the NBA. After playing in 3 different teams over 4 seasons on the fringe of the rotation, he arrived in San Francisco with low expectations. But Coach Kerr has found him a place. Having never played more than 29 games in a season, the younger Payton finally played 71 games this season.
The increased game time naturally did wonders to his numbers. Payton averaged a career-high 7.1 points. Likewise, he also recorded 3.5 rebounds a game in 17.6 minutes played per game, another career-high. He proved himself as an important part of the Warriors’ rotation providing important minutes.
Coming into his first-ever postseason, Payton was expected to be an integral part of the Warriors. As they intended to use their bench depth to outplay undermanned opponents and push for a title. The Warriors did not make the playoffs 2 years in a row due to injuries to key players which is why they were keen to avoid any injury issues.
A Gary Payton II return is improbable per Steve Kerr
In Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Memphis Grizzlies, Payton was subject to a flagrant foul by Dillon Brooks.
The foul earned Brooks an ejection and a further 1-game suspension. Gary fractured his elbow as he braced for impact landing awkwardly on it. He was sidelined for the rest of the series and hasn’t made his return in the conference finals.
Kerr says the Warriors are not ruling Gary Payton II out of the entire Western Conference Finals.
“It would be a long shot for him to play, but I think it’s a possibility.”
— Kendra Andrews (@kendra__andrews) May 15, 2022
On being questioned, Steve Kerr did not rule out the possibility of a return in the series against the Mavericks. “It would be a long shot for him to play, but I think it’s a possibility.”, said the Warriors’ head coach.
Gary Payton II will miss Game 2 of the conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks. But he might return later on in the series.