SAN FRANCISCO — Gary Payton II was back in a Warriors hoodie, walking around the Chase Center weight room after team practice on Friday. But the Warriors and all four of the teams involved in the trade that brought Payton back to Golden State can not speak publicly about the deal until all players pass their physicals.
Even if coach Steve Kerr couldn’t discuss it, the idea of Payton’s return had a smile on his face.
“Yeah, I’m not at liberty to talk about it,” he said on Friday.
Though a swap of James Wiseman for Payton wasn’t the splashiest move at the deadline, Payton’s re-insertion into the fold makes the Warriors exponentially more competitive defensively.
Draymond Green, who didn’t get the memo not to discuss the big trade, shared his thoughts on his post-deadline podcast.
“I’m excited about this move,” Green said. “Number one, we’ve really struggled on the defensive end, and bringing GP back, we all know what GP is capable of on the defensive end…Can plug GP right in, and he knows the system like the back of his hand.”
Golden State has struggled all season maintaining a strong shell defense, defending the perimeter and at the point-of-attack. They still lack size — Kevon Looney, JaMychal Green, Green and perhaps Jonathan Kuminga can play the five — but can return to one of the West’s best defenses with Payton coming off the bench and taking on some of the conference’s best guards such as Devin Booker and Ja Morant.
Last season, the Warriors had a 101.9 points per 100 possessions that ranked in the 98th percentile in the 39 regular season games Payton shared the court with Green. With Green, Payton and Wiggins, the Warriors’ 96.8 points/per ranked in the 100th percentile.
Come playoffs, should the Warriors advance, Payton can help the team defense combat some of the more loaded Western Conference foes. If the Warriors face the Phoenix Suns, Wiggins can defend Kevin Durant and Payton can take Booker, for example. Until he broke his elbow on a fall in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals, Payton was key in defending explosive Grizzlies’ point guard Morant. He could also find himself defending Kyrie Irving, the newest Dallas Maverick.
About the West
Kerr could speak on the Western Conference shakeup that saw Kevin Durant traded to the Phoenix Suns, Irving to the Mavericks and D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasely to the Lakers. The conference emerged from the deadline stacked.
“It’s very interesting trade deadline and a lot of teams in the West got better, stronger, and there were already some teams that were strong to start with,” Kerr said. “The conference definitely got better.”
Green added his thoughts on his latest post-deadline podcast.
“Are the Suns favorites in the West now? On paper they have to be favorites in the West. Definitely on paper,” Green said. “But, you know, the Dubs still in the West, and it’s the Dubs Invitational until further notice, baby.”
Steph Curry will be re-evaluated for his leg injury following the All-Star break, which ends on Feb. 23 with the All-Star game on Feb. 19. That means Curry won’t participate in his ninth All-Star game.
Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards, Toronto’s Pascal Siakam and Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox have been added to the NBA All-Star Game as injury replacements, the league announced Friday, as the three players to replace Curry, Phoenix’s Kevin Durant and New Orleans’ Zion Williamson.
Where is Andre Iguodala?
The 39-year-old Iguodala has missed every game since Jan. 15 with hip injury management, according to injury reports. After missing the first four months of the season, Iguodala announced his return to the court on Jan. 7 through is podcast. Kerr made clear that any second return to the court will come from Iguodala, too.
“It’s up to Andre to make that announcement,” Kerr said. “However he wants to address that next time you have access to him, you can ask him.”
Iguodala has played just three games this year since his Jan. 7 return.