Warriors' Gary Payton feeling 'like myself'; probable vs. Wolves

ByKendra Andrews ESPN logo
Saturday, March 25, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- Gary Payton II is considered probable for the Golden State Warriors' game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, coach Steve Kerr said.

Payton scrimmaged on Friday and was a full participant at the team's light practice Saturday afternoon. He will warm up on Sunday with the intent to play. The final decision will come before tipoff.

"I'm starting to feel like myself," Payton said. "I missed a lot of games this year so I'm just ready to get back out on the court with the guys and wrap this up for the homestretch."

Payton has been out since Feb. 8 -- when he was on the Portland Trail Blazers -- and has played in just 15 games this season due to a right adductor injury stemming from an offseason procedure.

Payton was acquired from the Trail Blazers at the trade deadline in a deal that was initially held up after the Warriors raised concerns about his physical exam. After deciding to move forward with the deal, the Warriors determined Payton would be reevaluated in one month.

On Saturday, he said he's feeling the best he has felt all year.

"At the beginning of the year, working through the little pains and bumps and bruises from the offseason, I feel pretty good," Payton said. "Every day getting my body right, a little maintenance, fine-tuning, we had a little extra time to do all of that and get [my body] where it needs to be."

Payton's reintegration with the Warriors comes with just seven games remaining in their regular-season schedule. And while his familiarity with the team, and its familiarity with him, will lead to a smoother transition in some ways -- Payton said it will be like riding a bike -- Kerr expects there to be a reacclimation period.

"I don't think anything is seamless in the NBA especially at this stage late in the year," Kerr said.

He later said: "It would be one thing if he had been with us all year. It's a much easier transition. But the fact that he hasn't been here all season, there are a number of guys on our team who really haven't played with him. It takes some time to find combinations and patterns."

However, the team does know how it wants Payton to impact the game. The Warriors feel that he is one of the best defenders to fit into their scheme, and his point-of-attack defense can help bolster an area they've struggled with this season. His defensive presence will also ease the pain of Andrew Wiggins' absence.

"He's so good on the ball, but he's also good off the ball and playing in the passing lanes," Kerr said. "Felt like last year we got out a lot more in transition off steals than we have this year, and Gary is also a great finisher in transition. And we're either last or near the bottom in transition points per possession this year, which should not be the case."

Payton's presence will also "eat into some minutes of other players," Kerr said. He didn't specify where exactly Payton's minutes will come from but said "a lot" of players will be impacted by it.

"So the biggest thing for our group is just to understand that it's all hands on deck," Kerr said. "What I've learned is on teams that are successful, everybody is able to sort of submit themselves to the group for the greater good, which is not easy to do. We're all human, human nature is to want to do well and to perform and to put ourselves in a great position, but it's not always easy to be able to understand the bigger picture."

Payton will be under a minutes restriction when he returns, but what the restriction will look like hasn't been determined yet.

Related Video