In a season that’s been marked by several notable player comebacks, the Warriors could have another key player return for the NBA Finals.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, citing sources, guard Gary Payton II is “on track” to return for the Warriors for the Finals. Charania shared the news on Friday, a day after Golden State closed out the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals.
“Payton has been progressing in his rehab from a devastating elbow fracture,” Charania said. “There’s optimism he will be back in the lineup as soon as Game 1, next Thursday. For Payton, this would be such a remarkable recovery after such a scary fall on that elbow on May 3. Now the Warriors’ do-it-all defensive stalwart is on the cusp of a return.”
Dub Nation has been pulling for Payton’s recovery ever since he landed hard in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals and fractured his left elbow, following a Flagrant 2 foul and swipe to the head from Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks.
Obviously, Game 1 would be the ideal scenario for Payton. The Warriors don’t wanna go any farther without their defensive stopper, who was also having a remarkably efficient offensive performance in the playoffs before his injury. In six contests before getting hurt, Payton averaged 7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 18 minutes per game while serving as the team’s top perimeter defender.
Payton was spotted with a big brace on his left arm during the Dallas series, but general manager Bob Myers said he was staying in shape. Reporters also saw Payton casually shooting the ball with his right hand at times.
With his high-energy style of play and rim-rattling dunks, Payton has become a fan favorite this season. Not to mention his deep Bay Area ties, due to his Hall of Fame father from Oakland.
If Payton returns for Game 1 or Game 2 of the Finals, he should get a rousing ovation from the Chase Center crowd. Dub Nation has already welcomed back Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Steph Curry from lengthy injury absences this season.
Aside from Payton, the Warriors could also get Otto Porter Jr. (right foot soreness) and Andre Iguodala (neck) back in time for the Finals, which start on Thursday in San Francisco. Golden State awaits the winner of the Boston Celtics-Miami Heat Eastern Conference Finals.