SAN FRANCISCO — After playing their last game without both Draymond Green and Gary Payton II, the Warriors expect to get both of their defensive stalwarts back on the floor for their 5:30 p.m. PT game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.
Green missed the Warriors’ 105-108 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday for personal reasons that were not disclosed by the team.
Payton was questionable for the game but did not play due to illness. Both players were back on the floor and practicing with the team on Friday at Chase Center.
“I’m fine guys, I’m fine, just a 24 hour bug,” Payton said. “That’s the diagnosis. Get through it and move on.”
After missing much of last season with a core muscle issue, Payton said his body is feeling good and he’s yet to have any setbacks in his recovery.
Payton has been an early season standout, with his premium defense often earning him closing time minutes. He’s tied for the team lead with 13 steals despite ranking eighth with 159 minutes through the team’s first nine games.
Payton’s plus-57 differential when he’s on the floor ranks second on the team only to Chris Paul’s plus-63 as the Warriors second unit continues to impress.
“Just come out there with good energy and force and cause havoc,” Payton said. “Our IQ in that second unit is pretty tough compared to other second units around the league. Just trying to outsmart the second unit and build, keep the ball moving, have space and connectivity.”
The Warriors’ rookies have impressed, but both Trayce Jackson-Davis and Brandin Podziemski were sent to the team’s G League affiliate in Santa Cruz on Friday.
The Santa Cruz Warriors, led by Steve Kerr’s son, Nick, will begin their season on Saturday. Both rookies are expected to play.
Kerr said the decision to send them down wasn’t because of their performance, but because they need to develop.
“It’s mostly just reps,” Steve Kerr said. “I think it’s a good change of pace for them to go from with us, maybe a 10- or 12-minute stint to, ‘hey, here’s 30 or 35 minutes.’ It’s good for their conditioning, for their rhythm, for their skillset.
“One of the things Brandin found in summer league is the game is moving pretty fast compared to college. He’s already made that adjustment to the NBA level but now he gets 30-plus minutes of that in the G League, working on his speed, working on his skill. And we want to win, especially now that my son is the coach.”
The 20-year-old Podziemski has 10 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and four turnovers in 46 minutes this season, while the 23-year-old Jackson-Davis has 26 points and 16 rebounds while shooting 60% from the floor in 55 minutes.
A 6-foot-9 rookie out of Indiana, Jackson-Davis has given the Warriors some much-needed size in the early going.
“He gives us a little something different from our other bigs in terms of being a lob threat,” Kerr said. “The verticality at the rim, he’s up there. (Kevon) Looney and Draymond (Green) are great rim protectors, but it’s different. It’s more positioning and strength. And with Trace it’s more of the elevation to go with that verticality. It makes a difference. It gives us a different look. We’re enjoying playing Trace quite a bit.”
One player who has struggled out of the gate is Andrew Wiggins, who is averaging just 11 points and four rebounds while shooting 40% from the floor and 15% from 3-point range.
Kerr is not concerned.
“I’m seeing Andrew look much better physically the last couple games,” Kerr said.”His on-ball defense has been great. He’s coming. I’m not worried about him at all. He’s got a long track record. It’s his (10th) year in the league. We know what Wiggs can do. The fact he’s looking really good defensively on the ball means his conditioning is there. I think the rhythm will follow.”
The Warriors unusual start to the season began with eight games in eight different cities after their season-opener at home.
They’re now back in San Francisco with four home games in their next 10 days.
“We’ll get a little more rest, a little more practice time, so we should sharpen up,” Kerr said. “I think we’ve had one real practice the last 10 days. We’re seeing all kinds of stuff on tape that we need to improve on both ends, execution, details in some things we run offensively, details within the schemes defensively. It’s like anything else you need practice time to sharpen up.”