Gary Payton II never felt safe.
Signed by the Warriors to a partially guaranteed contract in October to fill the team’s final roster spot, Payton used his athleticism and ability on both ends of the floor to climb into coach Steve Kerr’s talented rotation.
Even as his role increased -- including starts in Golden State’s last seven contests -- Payton didn’t let himself get too comfortable. He continued to log quality minutes even as the Jan. 10 cutoff date to sign players with partially guaranteed contracts for the rest of the season drew nearer.
All worries for the 29-year-old were wiped away, however, after reporters informed him of Kerr’s statement before the Warriors’ 101-96 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night: Payton will be in a Warriors uniform for the rest of the 2021-22 NBA season.
“Not a moment or a time I felt safe,” Payton said with a smile. “I don’t know if I still do, but I guess Coach Kerr said what he said.”
Payton posted double-digit points in eight straight games, including a season-high 22 against the Memphis Grizzlies on Dec. 23, before being held to four points in 14 minutes against New Orleans on Thursday night. He did, however, throw down a vicious dunk and beat 7-foot center Jonas Valanciunas on a jump ball in the third quarter.
After going undrafted out of Oregon State in 2016, Payton spent time with the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards from 2016-20 before appearing in 10 games for the Warriors last season.
Payton has played in 108 career NBA games, including a career-high 37 with Golden State this year. He’s averaging 7.8 points in 16.8 minutes per contest while shooting 61.4 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from 3-point range for the Warriors.
“I’m thrilled and excited to be here, and I’ll continue to help this team win,” Payton said.