Gary Payton II has missed the past nine games after fracturing his left elbow in the opening minutes of Game 2’s Western Conference Semifinals between the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies. Dillon Brooks committed a hard, unnecessary foul against him during a fast break, which brought Payton to the ground on an awkward fall and caused him to fracture his elbow.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Payton is progressing toward a return in the NBA Finals. Golden State advanced to the Finals with a 120-110 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Thursday’s Game 5.
“There’s optimism he will be back in the lineup as soon as Game 1 next Thursday,” Charania said. “The Warriors’ do-it-all defensive stalwart is on the cusp of a return.”
Warriors guard Gary Payton II (elbow fracture) is expected to return in the NBA Finals, sources say. Here's how soon: pic.twitter.com/6TaaQri0Wc
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 27, 2022
The Warriors will face the winner of the Boston Celtics-Miami Heat series. Game 6 is Friday night and Boston holds a 3-2 lead, looking to closeout the series on its home turf.
Payton, 29, enjoyed a career year, breaking into Golden State’s rotation. He showcased his elite defense and versatile off-ball offense. In 71 regular season games, he averaged 7.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals on 67.9 percent true shooting. His return would be a massive boost to the Warriors’ perimeter defense against Boston’s multifaceted scoring attack.