In the wake of Gary Payton II failing his Warriors physical and reporting from The Athletic, Portland Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin defended his training staff while talking to local media Friday.
Shortly after The Athletic's Shams Charania and Anthony Slater reported, citing sources, that the Trail Blazers' medical staff pushed Payton to play through the pain of a core muscle injury and gave him Toradol shots, Cronin was pressed by reporters to respond.
"Player safety is super important to us," Cronin said. "I mean, it's a super important thing around the league. We were playing him. He was playing and he had been cleared and we were confident that he was healthy when he was playing. We would not have brought him back if we thought he wasn't healthy or if he was at risk.
"So, you trust that we did the right thing, we trust that our process was correct, and these reports, I think ... the clearance process was proper, so I'll have to rely on that."
During trade negotiations, the Warriors were not made aware of how the Trail Blazers handled Payton this season, per Charania and Slater,
Payton signed a three-year, $26 million contract with Portland at the end of June and underwent core muscle surgery in July. He initially was expected to be ready for the start of the regular season in October, but ended up missing the first two-and-a-half months of the season.
Payton was cleared to increase on-court activities in early November and was cleared to play at the end of December, but the Trail Blazers held him out until Jan. 2.
"We got into a pretty long ramp up, where, yeah, he was cleared," Cronin said. "I don't want to get too deep into this, but quite a ways ahead of him playing. So we did a lot of 1-on-0, 1-on-1, 2-on-2, 3-on-3 build-up to get him safely back in a 5-on-5 environment."
After making his season debut, Payton has played in 15 games this season, including his first start with the Trail Blazers against the Warriors on Wednesday night at Moda Center. Payton played 22 minutes and finished with nine points in Portland's 125-122 win over Golden State.
A day later, the Warriors surprisingly reacquired Payton in a complex four-team trade with the Blazers, Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks. In the deal, Golden State sent former No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman to the Pistons, while Detroit dealt fellow 2020 draft pick Saddiq Bey to the Hawks. Seven second-round picks changed hands in the trade.
All four teams involved in the trade made some form of an official announcement regarding the trade. Pistons general manager Troy Weaver and coach Dwane Casey spoke to reporters Friday morning and were openly excited about adding Wiseman to the roster, though they noted the Memphis product wouldn't play later that night due to pending physicals.
In San Francisco, when Bay Area reporters were summoned to Chase Center on Friday for a post-trade deadline practice and media session, coach Steve Kerr said he wasn't able to answer any questions about Payton or the four-team trade, raising questions.
Three hours later, news of Payton's failed physical broke, putting the four-team trade in jeopardy. The Warriors are left with two options: Accept the trade as is, even with Payton's injuries, or rescind the trade, undoing the moves that have been made.
Sources told NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole that the Warriors are interested in waiving Payton's failed physical in order to keep him on the roster, even if he's unable to play for a certain amount of time.
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While Charania and Slater reported that Payton could miss up to three months, a source told NBC Sports Bay Area's Dalton Johnson that there is "no exact timetable" for how long the 30-year-old might be out.
Per NBA guidelines, the Warriors have 72 hours from the trade deadline to make a decision on the deal, so this situation will have a resolution over the weekend.