Gary Payton II in a game in 2021.
Gary Payton II in a game in 2021. Photo by Rob Corder. Downloaded from Flickr.

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Update: On Friday, fans felt gut-punched with news that Gary Payton II had failed his physical with the Warriors, news that put the trade-in doubt. And now, we await management’s decision by noon today on whether the deal to bring back a favorite player falls apart or stays in place.

Original story

The conversations on Twitter, sports podcasts and the counter at Nice Kicks shoestore on Valencia Street Thursday afternoon all revolved around a trade earlier in the day that brings the gritty and enormously popular Gary Payton II back to the Golden State Warriors.

No matter that the Warriors record of 28 wins and 27 loses has them ranked as ninth in the Western Conference standings, the Payton trade gave fans new hope. Exuberance abounded. 

“He’s back! We got him back! GP2, back to the Warriors. We need him,” said Angel Salinas, sporting a gray vest with the Warriors logo as he stood on one side of the counter at Nice Kicks. 

Anthony Armas, who works in the store, liked the deal for a number of reasons: GP2, as he is known, was from the finals “that they won” (unlike the recent games they’ve been losing) and the guard has “that same kind of chemistry that’s gonna be familiar already within the team.”  

Like other fans, they also like Payton’s tough backstory of wandering around the G-League and nearly missing a spot on the Warriors in the 2021-22 championship season. “He played hard,” said Salinas. “He came from a background where nobody wanted him.”  Even the Warriors almost cut him from the 15th roster spot last year. 

But Payton held on and proved to everyone in last season’s championship run that he was worth the spotlight. ”Gary Payton II’s return in Game 2 changed the tenor of the series,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said during a press conference as he reminisced about the NBA Finals.

Nevertheless, the Golden State lost Payton to Portland, because it refused to pay an additional luxury tax penalty on an already hefty payroll.  “Gary Payton was such a fit for them last year. It broke everyone’s heart when he left. Him leaving rattled everyone.” Cyrus Saatcaz said today on the “Locked On” Warriors podcast.

NBA page changed Gary Payton II’s team this afternoon

“To have both DiVincenzo and Gary Payton II coming off bench now is perimeter defense this team has been lacking all season,” said Saatcaz.

One astute fan, @SherloqueTf, saw hope in the Warriors’ 125-122  Wednesday night loss to Payton’s Portland Trail Blazers. Payton played for Portland for 22 minutes and, after the game, he and Jordan Poole swapped jerseys.

“We shoulda traded for gp2 back,”

@SherloqueTf replied in reaction to the exchange. 

After it came true today, fans congratulated his “good call.” He said he had a feeling because of “the chemistry and what he gave us on both sides of the ball.”

Commentators also pointed out that the Warriors will now save some money; about $37 million in salary and tax savings over the next two years, according to Adrian Wojnarowski from ESPN.

That’s because the team traded away James Wiseman, who no one spoke about much today. In part because fans hardly got to see Wiseman play because of injuries, and later because he seemed to get fewer and fewer minutes.

Anthony Mejias, a Celtics fan, acknowledged that the Payton trade could be good for the Warriors ”because they’ve been so bad on the road.” 

However, he was not optimistic about the team’s future and mentioned Kevin Durant going to the Phoenix Suns, as well as Kyrie Irving going to the Dallas Mavericks to play with Luka Dončić.

“It’s gonna be hard for the Warriors,” said Mejias, “If they make it (to the Finals), it would be a miracle.”

For now, however, Warriors’ fans appeared anxious to believe in miracles. And Saatcaz from “Locked on” went out on a limb.  “As long as they’re healthy, I predict the Warriors to repeat as world champions.”

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INTERN DATA REPORTER. Chuqin has two degrees in data journalism and she is passionate about making data more accessible to readers. Before arriving in the Mission, she covered small business and migratory birds in New York City while learning to code and design at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. She loves coastal cities, including SF and her hometown Ningbo.

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