Saturday, July 2, 2022

Warriors’ Gary Payton II expected to return for NBA Finals, possibly as early as Game 1, per report

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The Golden State Warriors will be getting a key contributor back for the NBA Finals. Defensive stalwart Gary Payton II has been progressing well following the fractured elbow he suffered against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals, and he is expected to return to action during the Finals, according to Shams Charania and Anthony Slater. There is some optimism that Payton could be ready for the first game of the series, which is set for Thursday, June 2. 

From The Athletic: 

The Warriors are anticipating the return of a major rotation piece for the upcoming NBA Finals. Gary Payton II is progressing well and there’s optimism that he could be back at some point early in the series, possibly as soon as Game 1, sources told The Athletic on Friday … 

The injury occurred on May 3. Payton was given a three-to-five week timetable. Game 1 of the finals is on June 2, four weeks post-fracture. Payton’s left arm was immobilized in the initial days after the fracture, but he has been amping up his workouts in recent days.

Payton suffered the injury when he was knocked out of the air by Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks during an attempt at the rim. Brooks was ejected and suspended a subsequent game for the foul. Payton’s return would obviously be a big boost for the Warriors, especially on the defensive end of the floor, as he has established himself as one of the league’s better perimeter defenders. 

In addition to Payton, the Warriors could also get veteran forward Andre Iguodala back at some point during the NBA Finals. Iguodala hasn’t played since the first round of the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets as he continues to deal with a disc injury in his neck, but Golden State is reportedly hopeful that he’ll be able to return during the Finals. 

The Warriors are making their sixth Finals appearance in the last eight seasons. They are the first team to accomplish that feat since the Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen-led Chicago Bulls of the 1990s. Winning their fourth ring under coach Steve Kerr won’t be an easy task, though, so they could use any help they can get. Getting both Payton and Iguodala back would be a big boon for Golden State. 

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