Despite being made available before Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, Gary Payton II was confined to the bench as the Warriors suffered a stunning fourth-quarter collapse at Chase Center.
His father, basketball Hall of Famer Gary Payton, was surprised his son wasn’t in the rotation.
“I was surprised that you would say he’s available, and then all of a sudden you don’t play him,” Payton told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Grant Liffmann on the “Dubs Talk” podcast. “I don’t know what it was. That’s what the Golden State Warriors want to do. That was on their coaching staff, whatever they wanted to make out of it, but it’s none of my business.”
Thursday marked the first time Payton’s son was given the go-ahead to play since fracturing his elbow against the Memphis Grizzlies during the Western Conference semifinals last month. Between then and Game 1 of the Finals, the Warriors guard/forward missed nine games while injured.
So it’s no surprise Payton was eager to see his son play and hopefully make a difference in the game.
“As a parent and as a player, if you say I’m available, I do want to be used,” Payton told Liffmann. “It’s only seven games left. You’ve got to win four. He’s a big, big asset to them as a defensive player, as a slasher, as a person who can go get it.
“Why not use it? What are you saving him for?”
On Saturday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr explained to reporters the reasoning behind Gary Payton II’s lack of minutes to start the series. He would have been used in “special circumstances,” Kerr said, like a late-game stop.
“I didn’t feel comfortable playing him significant minutes yet,” Kerr said. “I thought, and the training staff felt, like he needed a little more time.”
While Payton recognized decisions about playing time are up to the coaching staff, he thought they should have reached a different conclusion on Thursday.
“That’s not my decision to make. I’m not trying to get into no war with nobody about nothing, but that is my son,” he said. “I’m going to say something about it. I thought he should have been playing, but … they made a decision not to play him, and that is what it is.”
With the Warriors looking to respond in emphatic fashion during Game 2 on Sunday at Chase Center, Payton will be pleased that his son has made even more progress since Thursday and could see the court.
“I anticipate that he will be available for more than that [Sunday] because the last couple of days have gone pretty well, and he’s feeling better,” Kerr said Saturday.
After a disastrous Game 1, Dub Nation certainly hopes he can play difference-maker upon his return.