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Sources: Dubs interested in keeping GP2 despite failed physical

NBC Sports

SAN FRANCISCO – Steve Kerr was asked Friday afternoon to comment on the Warriors’ reacquisition of Gary Payton II 24 hours earlier, but the Warriors coach wouldn’t address the trade because it still was pending.

Why? Because, as league sources confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area, Payton on Friday morning failed his Warriors physical due to a lingering core muscle problem that cause him to miss the first three months of the season with the Portland Trail Blazers. That puts the entire four-team trade, also involving the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks, in limbo.

The Warriors remain extremely interested in a reunion with GP2, who was a critical member of the roster that last June won the 2022 NBA Finals. Which brings us to a couple salient factors.

One, the Warriors still could – and likely would – choose to waive the failed physical and retain Payton’s rights, even if he is sidelined indefinitely, multiple league sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.

One source, familiar with the Warriors’ desire have GP2 back on the roster, seemed “sure” they would be willing to consider that option – despite being surprised by the failed physical. Golden State has up to 72 hours to accept the trade or rescind it.

Payton, 30, was acquired at ahead of the NBA trade deadline Thursday in four-team swap that also involved the Hawks and the Pistons. Detroit sent Saddiq Bey to Atlanta in the process, while Golden State’s significant departure is center James Wiseman, who was traded to Detroit.


Which brings us to the other important factor. The other physicals remain pending. Wiseman had not undergone a Pistons physical as of late Friday afternoon, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.

The Warriors remain hopeful because they understand GP2’s value to their roster. After going through four franchises in six years searching for and never finding an NBA home, he settled into Golden State’s rotation last season.

Payton’s defense made a massive impact on a championship team. Stuck in the grip of mediocrity through 55 games (28-27 record), the Warriors have an urgent need for more of the same.

Coming off a 125-122 loss at Portland, with Payton playing 22 minutes for the Blazers, Kerr expressed his disappointment with the Warriors' defense and acknowledged that was the focus of most of the team’s video study on Friday.

“Offensively, we did plenty to win the game,” Kerr said. “We took care of the ball, shot it well. But our defense was poor. Our shell was compromised constantly, which allowed drivers to get into the lane, which meant we were having to rotate and then fouling way too much.

“Just staying in front of our guy has been an issue.”

Point-of-attack defense happens to be GPII’s specialty. His assignment, game after game, was to defend the likes of Memphis’ Ja Morant, Phoenix’s Chris Paul, and Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox. He also took turns of such larger players as Dallas’ Luka Dončić.

With Payton going to Portland after the Warriors failed to compete with a three-year contract (player option in Year 3) worth $26 million, the defense has not been nearly as effective.

Too often this season, Golden State defenders have been a step late or unable to force drivers away from their tendencies. Vain attempts to recover leads to fouls and a discrepancy in free throws. The Warriors shoot the second-fewest free throws (18.6 per game) while giving up a league-leading 26.1.

“The fouling is often a result of reaching and making a poor decision,” Kerr said. “But it’s also often a case of having to cover up for penetration. We’ve got to tighten all of that up.”

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Thus, the desire to bring back GP2. And the reason why the Warriors, on their end, are considering accepting the trade despite the failed physical.