GP2 to practice Saturday, could play Sunday vs. Wolves


The closest step yet, with the light shining bright at the end of the tunnel for Gary Payton II.

The Warriors on Thursday announced Payton has intensified his on-court workouts over the past week, and is expected to practice with the team on Saturday. Following practice, his availability for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves will be determined.

"He's doing well. His rehab is going well," Steve Kerr said to reporters Wednesday in Dallas before the Warriors' win against the Mavericks. "I don't know exactly what's planned ahead, but because things are going well, we're hopeful that he's going to be out there on the court before too long."

After missing the Warriors' last 19 games, plus Friday night's game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Payton could finally make his on-court return in front of a home crowd.

Golden State acquired Payton from the Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 9 before the NBA trade deadline in a four-team, four-player deal where the Warriors also sent former No. 2 overall draft pick James Wiseman to the Detroit Pistons. But he hasn't played a game since coming back to the Warriors. 

He surprisingly failed his Warriors physical due to a right adductor/core injury issue. Payton underwent offseason core surgery after signing a three-year contract worth over $26 million with the Blazers in free agency. Though he was supposed to be ready for the start of the regular season, complications kept pushing his Portland debut back further and further. 

Payton finally played his first game of the season on Jan. 2, before having to miss the next three. Once he re-joined the Warriors, Payton admitted to playing through pain this season by using Toradol, a painkiller, orally but not through shots. 

This season with the Blazers, Payton averaged 4.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 15 games. His one start was his final game with Portland, a three-point Warriors loss to the Blazers where Payton played 22 minutes and finished with nine rebounds, three rebounds and one steal. 

The 30-year-old played 71 regular-season games for the Warriors last season and averaged 7.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals while also making 35.8 percent of his 3-point attempts. His unique skill set played huge role in the Warriors winning the title last season, which is why the Warriors moved on from a 21-year-old in favor of the veteran. Payton’s versatility defensively makes the Warriors a different team. 

And helps their optimism that they can still make another run, despite their odd up-and-down season thus far. 

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"We're hopeful to get [Andrew Wiggins] and Gary Payton back," Kerr said Wednesday. "Those two guys were really key players for us in the championship run a year ago."

Andre Iguodala is out for at least the remainder of the regular season with a fractured left wrist. The Warriors will continue to respect Wiggins' space, with hopes that he plays again this season. Payton's return is around the corner, right when the Warriors need him most and right when the Warriors usually play their best.

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