Warriors still miss GP2 after discovering his true NBA value


The NBA season is in its 11th week and Gary Payton II, who left the Warriors to sign the Portland Trail Blazers, has yet to make his debut. And he won’t be on the court Friday night when the teams play at Chase Center.

Payton’s long-term unavailability is the one detail that merely makes his absence somewhat palatable for many in the Golden State organization and most of the fans.

The Warriors want Payton to get healthy, to be sure, but they’re OK if he won’t be available to harass every offensive player in his space on Friday. His presence will be limited to receiving his ring as a member of the 2022 championship team.

Not just a member, mind you, but someone who routinely made an impact. GP2 is the rarest of the rare, a great and popular teammate who at 6-foot-3 can defend four positions so well that it can change the tone of the game.

That’s what the Warriors miss, and it’s why several influential people within the organization -- players, coaches and front office -- advocated for the return of GP2 when he became a free agent last summer.

And it’s why those individuals were disappointed when CEO Joe Lacob vetoed the idea of matching the contract offered by Portland, which is worth as much as $29 million over three years.

“No surprise to us that if these guys got ... like Gary Payton had a good year and if he got a big offer, it was going to be very unlikely we were going to re-sign him, no matter how much we love him -- and we like him a lot," Lacob, referring also to Otto Porter Jr., told Tim Kawakami of The Athletic last July.

“He got a much bigger offer, in fact, than we thought he would get. Way beyond. And I'm not saying he's not worth it or is worth it. But it is a lot. And it's not something we really could entertain doing.”

By not re-signing GP2 and Porter, the Warriors saved roughly $60 million in luxury taxes.

With Payton missing the first two-plus months, Lacob’s decision is, in the short term, a wise option. Declining to re-sign GP2 also was a nudge toward getting more playing time for the young players in whom the franchise had invested through the draft.

Whereas Payton, who turned 30 years old Dec. 1, was a relatively finished product, Golden State’s young players -- James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Ryan Rollins -- are still in the process of development.

And it shows.

“You look at GP’s road to his success; you can’t skip over that road,” Draymond Green explained to reporters Friday after shootaround. “That’s a road that probably involved 10 G League teams, eight or nine NBA teams. You can’t just skip over that road. GP did what he had to do to make a career he can be proud of. You’ve got to be proud of him for that.

“I have no doubt these young guys will do what they have to do to create a career that they and their families will be proud of ... that they themselves can be proud of. But it takes time.”

There is no timeline for GP2’s return -- he underwent abdominal surgery in September -- but he is said to be close to returning. The game against the Warriors will be Portland’s 35th of the season.

He’ll have to settle for being in street clothes for his reunion and celebration with his former teammates -- those with whom he belatedly discovered his true value within the NBA.

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Green will present the ring.

“To understand all of that and understand GP’s journey, to see him go and get his money but most importantly to see what he was able to contribute to a championship,” said Green, “I’m extremely excited and honored to be the person that’s presenting him something that will matter, and no one can take for the rest of his life.”

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