PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Warriors entered the offseason after a fourth championship in eight seasons with a handful of veterans hitting the open market. Atop their to-do list was bringing back Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II, two keys to their latest title.
Looney signed on the dotted line, but Payton bolted for the Portland Trail Blazers, earning a contract Golden State wasn't going to match. Payton agreed to a three-year deal with the Blazers worth over $26 million.
Two days later, they couldn't have found a better backup plan.
Warriors stars Steph Curry and Draymond Green convinced Donte DiVincenzo why signing with the Warriors would be such a good move for both sides. He didn't need to hear anything else. DiVincenzo agreed to a two-year, $9.3 million contract that has a player option for the second season.
Immediately, comparisons between DiVincenzo and Payton were created. His signing was treated as being a Payton replacement. But that was never how he viewed it.
"He did it all last year, they won the championship," DiVincenzo said at Warriors shootaround Wednesday before playing Payton and the Blazers. "He was a huge, vital role in what they did last year. For me coming in, I don't do the whole comparison thing.
"I think we're two different players and we bring two different things to this team. They're two different teams. He played with a lot of veteran guys in that second lineup."
Though DiVincenzo and Payton both have started games for Steve Kerr, their role typically comes from the bench. A season ago, that unit with Payton also consisted of veterans like Otto Porter Jr., who was 28 years old, Damion Lee, who was 29, Juan Toscano-Anderson, who was 28, Nemanja Bjelica, who was 33, and a 38-year-old Andre Iguodala.
Iguodala has played three games this season, and the rest of that group is gone. Along with DiVincenzo and a 23-year-old Jordan Poole, whose highs and lows are a wild ride, the only veteran is a 32-year-old JaMychal Green, who has missed 20 games to injuries, illness and DNPs (Did Not Play).
Besides that, it's players 21 years old and younger, with only one receiving consistent playing time after the complete opposite early in the season.
DiVincenzo and Payton are both excellent defenders, with Payton having a slight edge when fully healthy. Offensively, DiVincenzo is more of a pure guard and scoring threat, while Payton played the dunker role for the Warriors at 6-foot-2, though he did improve as a 3-point shooter as well. The two also have a knack for rebounds and their versatility perfectly fits the Warriors.
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Putting comparisons to the side, DiVincenzo expressed his respect and admiration for Payton's game, and even more so, his journey. He knows how important Payton was for the Warriors' championship, and hopes to accomplish the same. On Wednesday night, the Warriors face Payton for the first time since he left in free agency, and the importance of each player to their respective teams figures to be seen on the floor.
"You have to give him his flowers," DiVincenzo said. "His process and everything with where he got to be right now with Portland is amazing. Going in and out of the G League just grinding trying to get a contract with the Warriors, and then becoming a rotation guy and then being able to perform in the playoffs and now getting paid and doing it again with this team.
"You have to give him his flowers, and all respect goes out to him and the way he carries himself is huge as well."
Players and the Warriors coaching staff are sure to give GP2 his flowers Wednesday night. For a few hours, that'll be put aside with the Warriors needing a win in Rose City.