It would be more than understandable if Gary Payton II held a grudge against Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks.
It was Brooks who fouled Payton hard in the first quarter of Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals. The vicious contact resulted in an ejection and one-game suspension for Brooks and a fractured left elbow for Payton.
But he doesn’t. And the reason why Payton let bygones be bygones is because of a kind gesture from Brooks.
"For the record: There’s no bad blood between me and Dillon," Payton wrote in an article published by The Players Tribune on Friday. "After we closed out Game 6, I got word that he wanted to talk outside the locker room, and when I got there he apologized. I give Dillon a lot of credit for that -- no text, no social media, nothing indirect. He came in person, and we talked like grown men. He told me he didn’t mean to hurt me.
"I believe him.”
Payton, who worked his way from a partially guaranteed contract in October to starting the first two games of the series against Memphis, declared that he wasn't angry about Brooks' foul, even after he learned the seriousness of the injury.
“Even after the X-rays showed it was an elbow fracture, and we knew I was gonna be out, I wasn’t angry about what went down," he wrote. "I was annoyed to miss time, especially in the playoffs, but I didn’t care about the foul. I’ve taken worse hits. I wasn’t mad or shook up about that.
Golden State Warriors
"So, no, I’m not mad. I feel like maybe the whole world thought I was mad, though. Because once that game ended, my phone started blowing up — everyone tapping in and checking on me, making sure I wasn’t too upset or too down or whatever. And of course everyone with the Warriors, they’re all such good people and had my back, no question. I had a lot of people pissed on my behalf. And I love them for that. But I was good."
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In an injury update released Friday afternoon, the Warriors stated Payton has been participating in light individual on-court activities and will be re-evaluated again May 27.
If the Western Conference finals between the Warriors and Dallas Mavericks goes more than five games, Game 6 of the series is scheduled for May 28. That would be the earliest Payton could make a celebrated return and aid Golden State's championship mission once again.