Northwest Notes: Payton, Blazers, Hyland, Clarkson, Conley, Gobert

It got a bit lost in the shuffle of Thursday’s trade deadline activity, but one of the more interesting moves at the deadline was the Trail Blazers trading away guard Gary Payton II after he had appeared in just 15 games with the team. Payton was dealt just seven months after Portland beat out rival suitors to sign him to a three-year contract as a free agent.

One source tells Jason Quick of The Athletic that one key reason for the move was that Payton had indicated he didn’t want to be in Portland anymore — he was “ecstatic” to be sent back to the Warriors, according to that source.

It’s a worrying sign that so many players the Blazers trade seem so enthusiastic about leaving Portland, Quick writes, pointing to Norman Powell, Robert Covington, Larry Nance Jr., and Josh Hart as other recent examples.

Quick also questions how Damian Lillard and Jerami Grant (who has been offered an extension) might view the Blazers’ deadline moves, which included trading Payton and Hart and acquiring flawed or unproven young players like Cam Reddish, Matisse Thybulle, and Kevin Knox.

Head coach Chauncey Billups had been hoping to add size and experience to the roster, but Portland’s deals this week accomplished neither and may result in the team taking a step back in the short term. As Quick writes, the Blazers will have to hope that Lillard and Grant still believe in the team’s long-term plan.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • When Bones Hyland left the Nuggets‘ bench out of frustration in the fourth quarter of a Jan. 22 game against Oklahoma City, it represented a tipping point, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post, who says that incident didn’t sit well with a number of Denver’s veterans and led to the team exploring Hyland’s trade market in earnest. According to Singer, Hyland’s poor fit alongside Jamal Murray, his defensive lapses, and his displeasure with his role were all factors that led to him being dealt. Still, trading the second-year guard was a difficult decision that went up to ownership, sources tell The Denver Post.
  • The Jazz and guard Jordan Clarkson aren’t expected to reach an agreement on an in-season extension, but sources tell Tony Jones of The Athletic that Utah remains very open to continuing its relationship with Clarkson beyond this year. The 30-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer by turning down a $14.3MM player option for 2023/24.
  • The Timberwolves‘ acquisition of Mike Conley signals the team’s commitment to improving the fit for Rudy Gobert, who developed chemistry with Conley in Utah, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “I love Mike,” Gobert said on Wednesday. “I just love the way he plays the game — the way he makes people around him better, his professionalism, the way he plays to win and his selflessness, and I love him as a person too, so obviously I’m happy.”
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