Warriors friendships with GP2 will last longer than loss


PORTLAND, Ore. -- Playing against Gary Payton II for the first time since he signed with the Portland Trail Blazers was already going to be hard enough for the Warriors. Payton then getting his first start with his new team because of Josh Hart being traded minutes before tipoff made it that much tougher Wednesday night at Moda Center in the Warriors' 125-122 loss to the Blazers. 

The former Warrior started the game by guarding Klay Thompson, and roamed around the court on Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and the rest of his brothers that he won a championship with. He drained his first shot of the night, a corner 3-pointer on Klay and finished around the rim twice in the first quarter as a reminder to what a unique skill set the journeyman possess. 

Through the first quarter alone, Payton put up seven points and was a plus-5 in plus/minus with one steal. Overall, he added only two more points on two free throws at the end of the game and finished as a minus-5. His presence often goes beyond the box score and numbers, though. 

At the end of the day, it was all love between Warriors players and coaches with an ex many in the franchise wish was still wearing a Golden State jersey.

"It was great, I love Gary Payton," Thompson said after the loss. "Just a great pro and a champion. He's just a great guy."

While Payton and Thompson, who scored 31 points and made seven 3-pointers, spent a good deal of time going against each other, the real fun came between GP2 and Poole. After scoring three points in the first quarter, Poole started to catch fire in the second. He scored 12 points in the period, giving him 15 going into halftime. 

Then over a minute-plus in the third quarter, Poole couldn't miss behind the 3-point line. From the 8:24 mark through 7:07 left in the third, he hit three straight 3-pointers to give the Warriors a seven-point lead. The splash had some extra sizzle to it. 

And Poole, who also made seven threes and led the Warriors with 38 points, let Payton know all about it.

They might have been foes on the court for a night, though the friendship runs much deeper. Following the Warriors' loss, that was evident as ever with Payton and Poole swapping jerseys. 

"Yeah, we're gonna talk all the time," Poole said. "We did in practice, we did in the game. He's a competitor, a really good defender, a really good player. When you get to go against your brother and guys of that caliber, it's always exciting." 

For a stretch, Poole got the better of Payton but GP2 got the last laugh on the scoreboard. Plus, he also made Poole a better player. For the six weeks that Payton spent with the Warriors in the 2020-21 season, plus all of last season, the two went against each in practice over and over again. 

One player is a lethal scorer, and the other is a lockdown defender. When those two kinds of players clash, the best is going to come out. 

Poole doesn't forget those days, nor did he forget what he picked up from Payton's game in those numerous practices. 

"A lot of battles in practice," Poole said. "You get to learn a player's tendencies, especially when you're on the same team. What they like to do, what they don't want to do. There was definitely questions last year that came and I was able to apply tonight. 

"It's all a part of the game." 

RELATED: Draymond knows what makes former Warrior GP2 irreplaceable

A three-point loss dropped the Warriors to the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference, with Payton and the Blazers one game behind. In the grand scheme, this was another night of an 82-game regular season, a first for Payton and so many Warriors squaring off with him. 

The final score was in favor of Payton on this night. Those number eventually will be forgotten. His Warriors championship ring is what will last forever, along with countless lifelong relationships.

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