Trail Blazers guard Gary Payton II has been experiencing “intermittent soreness” during his rehab from core muscle surgery as he ramps up for a return to play, the team announced today in a press release.
According to the Blazers, Payton will continue his rehab work in anticipation of returning to full practice. He’ll be reevaluated in two weeks, meaning he won’t make his Portland debut until at least December.
The Blazers’ statement doesn’t use the term “setback,” and their wording doesn’t suggest that Payton has suffered a new injury or aggravated a core muscle issue.
Still, when the surgery was first announced in September, the team indicated the veteran guard was expected to be ready for the start of the season, and there was a sense at the start of the month that he could be ready to play as soon as November 15, so his rehab process is taking a little longer than anticipated.
The Blazers haven’t missed a beat with Payton unavailable. Their 10-5 record puts them atop the Western Conference, and their 109.9 defensive rating is the seventh-best mark in the NBA. Given Payton’s lock-down ability as a perimeter defender, that unit should only improve once he’s ready to play.
With Payton out until at least December, the Blazers will continue to lean heavily on Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons in the backcourt, with Josh Hart and rookie Shaedon Sharpe also playing regular roles.