Gary Payton II

Pacific Notes: Payton, Westbrook, Lue, M. Brown

Gary Payton II‘s long wait to get back on the court with the Warriors will end Sunday, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Payton has been listed as probable to play against the Timberwolves, and sources tell Haynes that he’ll be ready to go.

Payton was able to scrimmage Friday and participated fully in Saturday’s light practice, writes Kendra Andrews of ESPN. An official decision may not be made until after warm-ups, but it appears the intention is for Payton to play.

“I’m starting to feel like myself,” he said. “I missed a lot of games this year, so I’m just ready to get back out on the court with the guys and wrap this up for the homestretch.”

After being an important part of Golden State’s title team last season, Payton signed with the Trail Blazers over the summer. The Warriors reached an agreement to bring him back at the trade deadline, but the deal was delayed four days because Payton had an adductor injury that Golden State claimed the Blazers didn’t disclose. Payton, who hasn’t played since February 8, says he feels good now and he’s ready to contribute.

“Every day getting my body right, a little maintenance, fine-tuning, we had a little extra time to do all of that and get (my body) where it needs to be,” he said.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Russell Westbrook has taken on a mentorship role since signing with the Clippers, according to Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. Westbrook’s main students are young guards Terance Mann and Bones Hyland, who are eager to learn from a future Hall of Famer. “I got so much love and just, just everything for Russ, man. I love watching him play, his energy,” Hyland said. “… He gives it his all. So just being alongside Russ, I learned so much and he’s always in my ear telling me the good things, what he sees out there for me. I’m glad to be a teammate alongside Russ.”
  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue could “remove himself” from the team if things don’t go well in the playoffs, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports suggested in the first episode of his “No Cap Room” podcast. However, sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype that Lue, who has multiple years left on his contract, hasn’t engaged in any discussions with management about an early exit.
  • Mike Brown, who’s among the favorites for Coach of the Year honors, said the award would be important because of the recognition it would bring to the Kings and the city of Sacramento (video link).

Warriors Won’t Pursue Grievance Against Trail Blazers

4:05pm: The Blazers released a statement confirming the news, tweets Aaron J. Fentress of The Oregonian.

The Golden State Warriors have decided to not pursue a grievance against the Blazers over the Payton trade. We are moving on, and glad to put this behind us.”

3:34pm: The Warriors have decided not to pursue an NBA investigation against the Trail Blazers following the four-team trade at last month’s deadline, league sources tell Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report (Twitter link).

The trade was held up for multiple days after the Warriors failed Gary Payton II‘s physical due to an adductor injury, but they ultimately decided to go through with it.

Payton has yet to play for the Warriors since the trade, but he is officially listed as probable for Sunday’s game and he intends to play against Minnesota barring a last-minute setback, per Kendra Andrew of ESPN (Twitter links). The veteran guard will be on an undisclosed minutes restriction, Andrews adds.

Payton, who helped the Warriors win the championship in 2021/22, signed a three-year, $26.1MM contract with Portland last summer, but only appeared in 15 games for the Blazers after offseason adductor surgery. He started for Portland the day before the trade.

A formal league inquiry into the Portland’s alleged failure to provide sufficient medical information was expected to be opened, but according to Haynes, the Warriors have decided against that course of action. It certainly doesn’t seem like a coincidence that Haynes’ report coincides with Payton’s imminent return to the court.

Warriors’ Gary Payton II Could Return Sunday

Warriors guard Gary Payton II has been making “good progress” in his recovery from a right adductor injury and has “intensified” his on-court activity over the past week. He’s expected to practice on Saturday, at which point his status will be determined for Sunday’s game against the Wolves, Golden State announced (via Twitter).

Payton has yet to play for the Warriors in 2022/23 after they acquired him in a trade just before last month’s deadline. He had started for the Trail Blazers the night before the deal, but the Warriors failed his physical, putting the trade in jeopardy. They ultimately went through with the deal after exploring their options for a few days.

The 30-year-old was slow to recover from offseason adductor surgery, as he didn’t make his debut with Portland until January, 36 games into the season. Once he returned, he only exceeded 20 minutes played three times, and missed an additional five contests.

Payton, who played a key role in helping the Warriors win the championship last year, signed a three-year, $26.1MM contract with the Blazers in free agency last summer. In 15 games this season (17.0 MPG), he averaged 4.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG and 1.1 SPG on .585/.529/1.000 shooting.

Trade Breakdown: James Wiseman To The Pistons (Four-Team Deal)

This is the 10th entry in our series breaking down the significant trades of the 2022/23 season. As opposed to giving out grades, this series explores why the teams were motivated to make the moves. Let’s dive into the most controversial trade of the deadline, a four-team deal between the Pistons, Warriors, Trail Blazers and Hawks.

Trade details

On February 9:

  • The Hawks acquired Saddiq Bey.
  • The Pistons acquired James Wiseman.
  • The Warriors acquired Gary Payton II, the Hawks’ 2026 second-round pick, and the Hawks’ 2028 second-round pick.
  • The Trail Blazers acquired Kevin Knox, either the Hawks’ or Nets’ 2023 second-round pick (whichever is most favorable; from Hawks), the Hawks’ 2024 second-round pick, the Hawks’ 2025 second-round pick (protected 41-60), the Grizzlies’ 2026 second-round pick (top-42 protected; from Warriors), and the Warriors’ 2028 second-round pick.
  • Notes: The Hawks previously traded their 2024 second-round pick to the Trail Blazers with top-55 protection. Those protections were removed as part of this deal. This trade technically wasn’t finalized until February 12, which we’ll cover below.

The Pistons’ perspective:

Wiseman was reportedly atop Detroit’s draft board in 2020, when he was selected No. 2 overall by Golden State. The Pistons wouldn’t have traded for him if they didn’t believe in his talent and potential.

Interestingly, Wiseman is the second former No. 2 overall pick that general manager Troy Weaver has traded for in the past two years, joining Marvin Bagley III. They have several similarities, including being left-handed big men who have struggled with inconsistency and injuries since entering the NBA.

Wiseman was something of a mystery prospect, as he only played three college games at Memphis before being ruled ineligible. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the truncated offseason, he didn’t have a full training camp entering his rookie season, which certainly wasn’t ideal for a player who already was lacking in high-level experience.

He showed some flashes of upside in 2020/21, averaging 11.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 0.9 BPG while shooting 51.9% from the floor and 62.8% from the free throw line in 39 games (27 starts, 21.4 MPG). He also shot 31.6% from three-point range on one attempt per night.

Unfortunately, he sustained a torn meniscus in his right knee that required surgery in April 2021. Wiseman had a lengthy recovery process, which included multiple setbacks and a second surgery – an arthroscopic procedure – in December 2021. He ultimately missed the entire ‘21/22 season.

Prior to the trade, Wiseman had appeared in just 60 NBA contests. In 21 games (12.5 MPG) this season with the Warriors, he averaged 6.9 PPG and 3.5 RPG while shooting 62.8% from the field and 68.4% from the line.

Wiseman, who turns 22 at the end of the month, needed more reps. Weaver said as much after the trade. There’s a lot of pressure on top draft picks like Wiseman, but he’s still early in the learning process, as head coach Dwane Casey noted earlier this month. It’s not something that can be rushed.

The Warriors didn’t have time to be patient with Wiseman. They won the title without him contributing last season, and he was struggling when he played for them in ’22/23. The Pistons are in the midst of a rebuild and can afford to be patient, at least in the short term.

At 7’0″ and 240 pounds with a 7’6″ wingspan, Wiseman has an inherent edge in two areas that can’t be taught: size and length. Those factors, combined with his plus leaping ability, make him a natural lob threat, and he has posted above average rebounding numbers with Detroit. He also has long strides and runs the floor well for a center.

Through 15 games (13 starts, 26.3 MPG) with Detroit, Wiseman is averaging 13.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG and 0.9 BPG while shooting 55.1% from the field and 68.8% from the line. He’s just 3-of-14 from deep.

It was a risky trade, to be sure. Bey had been a solid contributor for the Pistons and rarely missed games. But they’re in a position where they need to acquire star-level talent if they want to be competitive in the future, and they think Wiseman has the upside to reach that level.

The fit is a bit clunky and will be interesting to monitor going forward. The Pistons seem intent on running a two-big lineup, as they also have Isaiah Stewart (likely out for the season with a shoulder injury) and Jalen Duren, a couple of recent first-round picks. Wiseman, Bagley, Stewart and Duren will all have to improve in multiple areas for it to work.

That frontcourt will be even more crowded if Detroit wins the lottery again and drafts Victor Wembanyama. Still, that would be a good problem to have and would be one the team can figure out later if it happens.

Wiseman will be eligible for a rookie scale extension in the offseason. Given how rough around the edges he is, I would think the Pistons will wait on that decision until after ‘23/24, when he could be a restricted free agent if Detroit gives him a qualifying offer.

Ultimately, this trade was a home run swing on Wiseman’s talent. The Pistons had a long look at Bey, but they think Wiseman can be a real difference-maker while viewing Bey as having relatively less upside.

The Warriors’ perspective:

Did Golden State sell low on Wiseman? I don’t think so. Just because he was a top pick a few years ago doesn’t mean he’s still valued as such – if he was, the Warriors would have received more in return.

Golden State’s motion offense requires bigs who can set solid (sometimes illegal) screens and make quick decisions with the ball. Neither of those things are strengths of Wiseman’s at the moment.

The Warriors initially tried to cater to Wiseman as a rookie by clearing out the side and giving him isolation post-up touches. That’s never been their style though, and it totally disrupted the flow of their offense (he also was largely ineffective in those situations, often struggling with getting pushed off his spot, which is something he’s still working on).

After he returned from injury this season, they were using him the same way they’ve used their other centers over the years. He just wasn’t playing well.

Even more troubling than the poor offensive fit was how much he struggled defensively. Wiseman runs the floor well in the open court, but he doesn’t have good body control in tight spaces, especially when backpedaling.

Opponents are shooting 70.3% at the rim against Wiseman, which is the worst mark in the league among centers who contest at least four rim attempts per game, according to‘s data.‘s defensive estimated plus-minus ranks him as the third-worst defender in the NBA. It’s really tough to have the backbone of your defense be that much of a negative.

It’s a small sample size (only 262 minutes), but Wiseman’s net rating with the Warriors in ’22/23 was minus-19.3, with the equivalent of the worst offense and defense in the league (he’s at minus-11.1 with the Pistons). Golden State was plus-2.3 in 2,403 minutes with him off the court.

It just wasn’t working for either side. Wiseman looked confused and was visibly losing confidence, and the Warriors had a healthy player making $9.6MM this season who was detrimental to the team’s success when he played.

Payton, meanwhile, was an excellent fit with the Warriors, helping them win their fourth title in eight seasons in ’21/22. A tremendous athlete, the 6’3″ Payton fit well as a pseudo-big man offensively, recording 55 dunks out of 212 made field goals last season, a remarkably high percentage for a guard.

The 30-year-old had a great understanding of the team’s schemes on both ends, with many of those dunks coming off scripted plays on slipped screens. When healthy, he is a top-tier defensive player often tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player.

The problem was, according to the Warriors’ doctors and Payton himself, he wasn’t healthy. He failed his physical, which held up this four-team deal for three days after the deadline, at which point Golden State ultimately decided to go through with it. He had just started against the Warriors night before the trade, so there’s no way they could’ve known he was going to be sidelined as long as he has.

Payton only played 15 games with the Trail Blazers after signing a three-year contract with them last summer. He was slow to recover from abdominal surgery, which is the same injury that was flagged on his physical. Owner Joe Lacob said Portland was “disingenuous” and broke an “honor code” by not disclosing the extent of Payton’s injury.

This is an unfortunate example of why it’s risky to make a deal at the last minute just before the deadline. If it had been made a few days earlier, the Warriors could have asked to amend the terms of the trade, but they didn’t have that option once the deadline passed.

It’s true the Warriors could have re-signed Payton in the offseason without giving anything up. But due to the way the repeater tax works, his $8.3MM contract would have added about $60MM to their already record-breaking luxury tax bill — an exorbitant amount for a role player.

This trade saved them money both this season and next, as Wiseman is scheduled to make $12.12MM next season in the final year of his rookie deal, while Payton will earn $8.72MM in ‘23/24.

Hopefully Payton is able to return and contribute to close the season, as he has been sidelined since the Warriors approved the deal. He’s an exciting player to watch and played a key role in last season’s title run.

The Trail Blazers’ perspective:

Was it a red flag that Portland was willing to trade Payton so soon after signing him? The Blazers need defensive help and he is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league when active.

Still, I highly doubt there was anything nefarious going on. Differences of opinion happen all the time when it comes to medical issues, which is why players often seek out multiple doctors before undergoing surgery.

If it turns out the Blazers intentionally withheld information about Payton’s injury, then it would rightfully impact their reputation around the league and they might lose a second-round pick. I don’t see why they would risk that just to add a handful of second-rounders and move off Payton’s salary.

The Blazers created an $8.3MM traded player exception as part of the deal, which is what Payton makes this season. They will have until next February to use it.

Portland also added Knox, who makes $3MM this season. The former lottery pick is now on his fourth team in 14 months. His $3MM team option for next season is reasonable enough if the Blazers want to bring him back, but he’s only played 55 minutes in 10 games thus far with Portland.

The Hawks’ perspective:

This trade could be viewed in three parts for the Hawks. First, they sent out five second-rounders to acquire Bey (and Knox, who was then flipped to Portland).

Second, they created about $3MM in salary cap relief by making a four-player trade with Houston at the deadline, dealing away two second-rounders (via the Thunder) in the process. That allowed them to take on Bey’s salary while remaining under the luxury tax line.

Finally, they were able to absorb Bey’s $2.96MM contract with a trade exception they generated last summer when they moved Kevin Huerter to Sacramento.

If you want to look at it in total, they basically shuffled around some end-of-bench players and dealt away seven second-rounders to add Bey, a third-year forward.

You could certainly make the case that Bey was the best player involved in this deal at the time it was made, even if he isn’t a household name. He appeared in 204 of a possible 210 games with Detroit (30.0 MPG), averaging 14.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.0 APG and 0.9 SPG on .400/.357/.843 shooting in two-plus seasons.

From watching him play with the Pistons, I always felt that Bey could really shoot, but he was forced to take difficult shots because they had a team full of young players trying to figure things out, and he was one of the only real threats from deep. I think that experience will make him better in the long run because it helped him develop his off-the-bounce game, and he’s a solid passer who very rarely turns it over. He’s below average on defense, but not a liability or anything.

Frankly, I’m not sure why the Warriors didn’t just take Bey in this deal. He may not have been familiar with the system, and he certainly isn’t nearly the defensive player that Payton is, but I thought they could use another forward instead of another guard, and he seemed like a good fit. He’s also much cheaper than Payton, earning $4.56MM next season in the final year of his rookie contract.

Either way, obviously the Hawks wanted him. Through 15 games (25.1 MPG) in a reduced role with Atlanta, Bey is averaging 10.4 PPG and 4.3 RPG on a strong .466/.456/.789 shooting line.

As with Wiseman, Bey was a first-round pick in 2020 (No. 19 overall) so he will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer. The former Villanova product will turn 24 years old on the last day of the regular season (April 9).

Warriors’ Gary Payton II Out At Least 10 More Days

Veteran guard Gary Payton II is making “good progress” in his recovery from a right adductor injury, but still isn’t close to playing for the Warriors, the team announced on Monday evening (Twitter link).

According to the Warriors’ announcement, Payton has been doing daily physical rehab work with the training staff to strengthen his adductor/core and has also begun taking part in various on-court activities, including shooting. The plan is for him to intensify his on-court workouts in the coming days to see how he responds.

He’ll be reevaluated in 10 days, per the club.

Payton was at the center of the most controversial trade of the 2022/23 season, failing his physical with Golden State last month after the team agreed to reacquire him from Portland at the deadline. The Warriors weighed their options during the weekend after the trade deadline and ultimately decided to move forward with the deal rather than nixing the entire four-team agreement.

Payton, who underwent adductor surgery during the offseason, had returned to action for the Trail Blazers and appeared in 15 games this season, but was said to be playing through pain. The Warriors didn’t realize the full extent of his adductor issues and were unable to amend the terms of the trade after the deadline had passed.

Even though Payton will be reevaluated next Thursday, there’s no guarantee he’ll be cleared to play at that point. Still, the Warriors reportedly remain hopeful that he’ll be ready to go before the postseason tips off next month.

Golden State has won seven of its last 10 games, strengthening its position in the Western Conference playoff race. The Dubs are now 36-33, good for fifth in the West. They hold a one-game lead on the seventh-place Timberwolves and a 2.5-game cushion on the 11th-seeded Thunder.

Warriors’ Joe Lacob Discusses Wiseman, Payton, Timeline

Warriors owner Joe Lacob, who was known to be a fan of center James Wiseman, said in a conversation with Tim Kawakami of The Athletic that it was “very hard” to trade the big man at last month’s deadline, suggesting that the team “might very well regret that one” down the road.

“But as much as I love the guy, I can’t overrule what our basketball ops and our coaches and our players felt was the right thing to do,” Lacob said. “So it’s a consensus thing. We’re ‘we,’ we’re not ‘me.’ And we’re going to do what the best thing is and we felt it would improve our team short term and kind of went for it for Gary (Payton II).

Lacob added that it took some convincing for him to get on board with the idea of sending Wiseman to Detroit and admitted that he’s keeping an eye on how the former No. 2 pick performs with the Pistons.

“I think James is a really good young player and we’re not going to get many opportunities to draft a young guy like that again,” Lacob said. “And he really didn’t … let’s be honest, he didn’t really have a chance; it’s partially his fault, partially bad luck, partially our fault for not playing him enough. But we’re not getting an opportunity to get a big talent like that with size very often. I mean, it was a very hard decision for the organization, to be quite honest.”

Kawakami’s interview with Lacob included a few more intriguing comments from the Warriors’ owner, including his thoughts on how the negotiations with the Trail Blazers for Payton played out.

The conversation is worth checking out in full if you’re an Athletic subscriber, but here are a few highlights:

On how upset the Warriors were when Payton failed his physical following the trade:

“Very. … I think we all were. We were shocked. Because, you know, on the one hand, he was playing (for Portland), which would indicate he was healthy. But when you ask someone … they only have minutes to make these trades at the trade deadline. It’s kind of an honor code here. Forget what’s in the records, which you see later.

“I think we felt that they were disingenuous.”

On whether being able to reacquire Payton was the only reason the Warriors traded Wiseman:

“No. I don’t think (when) we started out we thought he’d be available, to be honest. He was expensive last year, that contract, we couldn’t really afford it. But given what we did with Wiseman, we took some money off the books. Our biggest weakness, you could argue, has been perimeter defense. So we felt it was a good move to make.

“One thing about (Payton) that I did like a lot, assuming he’s healthy and when he’s healthy, he knows how to play with our team. And the coaches know how to coach him. So he’s going to come in right away, there’s no, like … all these guys make these trades with 22 games to go, and I’m not going to name names, but it’s hard to integrate somebody who hasn’t been on your team. That guy’s been on our team. That’s a big advantage.”

On the Warriors’ supposed “two-timeline plan” (of veteran stars and young prospects):

“There’s only one timeline. I don’t know where this two-timelines thing comes from. There’s one timeline. You have a roster that you try to put together given financial constraints and given what’s available and what you can get. And when you have the salary structure at the top of the roster like we do, which is huge, the bottom or lower half of the roster has to be either minimums or young players. Either way, they’re smaller salaries.”

Pacific Notes: Westbrook, Lakers, Payton, K. Thompson

Russell Westbrook is glad to be in a situation where he feels wanted, but the Clippers only have a short time to figure out his best role with the team, writes Baxter Holmes of ESPN. L.A. shook up its backcourt with this week’s signing of Westbrook and trade deadline deals for Eric Gordon and Bones Hyland. It hasn’t been determined who will start and what the combinations will look like, and coach Tyronn Lue only has 21 games remaining to get his rotations in place.

“If he’s doing too much or not enough, I’ll let him know,” Lue said of Westbrook. “But we want him to be the player that he is, the MVP, the Hall of Famer, everything he brings every single night. We want him to be that person, that player. And then we’ve just got to make sure that it’s in the confines of our team and what we’re trying to do team-wise.”

Westbrook was stuck in a difficult situation with the Lakers, where he was a poor fit and an easy target for the team’s disappointing performance. A trade to Utah and a buyout with the Jazz gave him a chance to reset his career, and he said at Wednesday’s introductory press conference that he’s happy to be able to stay in L.A. and help the Clippers contend for a title.

“For me, it’s just finding my way to be able to help other guys,” Westbrook said. “It’s something I truly embrace, and that’s what I will do — make sure I can make the game easy for all these guys that are here, find out their spots, what they like, what they don’t like. And that’s going to be a process for me, but I’m ready for the challenge and looking forward to it.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers also remade their roster this month in hopes of making a push for the playoffs. Coach Darvin Ham tells Dave McMenamin of ESPN that three of the team’s newcomers — D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt — will be part of the starting lineup going forward. L.A.’s next seven games are against teams that it’s trailing in the Western Conference playoff race, and Ham knows they’re all important. “If we fall into a play-in situation, so be it,” he said. “But our No. 1 goal is to go secure a (playoff) spot, not just throw games off here or there (and) just wish for a play-in. We want to go secure a spot.”
  • The Warriors will reevaluate Gary Payton II‘s condition in about a month in hopes that he can be ready for the playoffs, according to Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Golden State opted to go through with a four-team trade even though Payton wasn’t able to pass his physical. “Just have to take it day by day,” Payton said. “When the medical staff and I agree that things are good and it’s safe for me to get back out there and be able to be myself and my body feels like itself, we’ll come up with a decision.”
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Klay Thompson should be available for back-to-back games for the rest of the season, tweets Madeline Kennedy of The Bay Area News Group.

Pacific Notes: Westbrook, Durant, Carmelo, Payton

The Clippers‘ front office met with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, along with Tyronn Lue and his coaching staff, to assess the team’s needs following the trade deadline, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. The group determined that a veteran point guard would be useful, particularly after trading away Reggie Jackson and John Wall, which led to the decision to pursue Russell Westbrook if he became available.

Westbrook signed with the Clippers after a buyout with the Jazz and could debut with his new team Friday night. The 34-year-old guard will try to rehabilitate his image in L.A. after spending a rocky season and a half with the Lakers.

There’s risk involved for both sides in the new arrangement, Youngmisuk notes. The Clippers are playing their best basketball of the season, winning 10 of their last 14 games, and will now try to integrate one of the league’s most polarizing players into their lineup, possibly as a starter. Westbrook, who will be a free agent this summer, faces the possibility of tanking his value even further as he seeks his next contract.

Youngmisuk notes that the Clippers are hoping Westbrook can become a more successful version of Wall, a similar type of player, who was trying to revive his career after years of injuries. Wall was on a minutes limit for much of the season and rarely got to play with Leonard and George at the same time because they were managing injuries of their own.

“Sucked that John didn’t work,” George said, “but what John brought is what we need: A guy that can get up and down the floor and get us some easy baskets in transition.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kevin Durant will likely play his first game with the Suns on March 1 at Charlotte, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. There had been hope that Durant would be ready for Friday’s home game against Oklahoma City or Sunday’s nationally televised contest at Milwaukee, but sources tell Charania that next Wednesday is now the target date. Durant has been sidelined since suffering an MCL sprain on January 8.
  • Recent comments from Durant and Chris Paul about Carmelo Anthony have led to speculation that they may lobby the Suns to sign the 38-year-old forward, according to Jeremy Cluff of The Arizona Republic. Anthony has been out of the league after playing 69 games for the Lakers last season.
  • Gary Payton II told reporters that he wasn’t surprised when he failed his physical with the Warriors, tweets Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Payton said he knew his body wasn’t 100% and explained that he took Toradol when he was with the Trail Blazers because “being a competitor, I just wanted to get out there.”

Pacific Notes: LeBron, Payton, D. Green, George

Foot and ankle issues prevented LeBron James from playing with his new teammates until Wednesday night, but he liked what he saw as the revamped Lakers hammered the Pelicans. Dave McMenamin of ESPN points out that James’ return resulted in L.A.’s 30th different starting lineup in 59 games, but the combination of him with Anthony Davis and the newly acquired D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt was effective right away.

Russell and Beasley provide what James calls “lasers” — outside shooters that the Lakers lacked earlier this season. Vanderbilt brings more size and energy to the front line and the team has more depth as well, with 10 players logging at least 15 minutes against New Orleans.

“First of all, I shout out and salute the guys that left,” James said. “(Russell Westbrook), (Patrick Beverley), (Juan Toscano-Anderson), (Damian Jones) and Thomas (Bryant). Those five guys. We all started the season together and tried to work to make some things happen and be the best that we could be out on the floor. So I salute those guys and their commitment to us trying to be as good as we could be on the floor. And right now, I mean, I like the guys that we have coming in. I mean, it’s going to take some time for us to get to know one another, but I know that they play the game at a high level.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The finding by team doctors that Gary Payton II has a core muscle injury that will prevent him from playing for at least a month had a “devastating effect” on the Warriors, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Golden State brought back Payton to shore up a shaky defense, but he’s not expected to be on the court until well after the All-Star break.
  • Draymond Green called out the Warriors‘ defensive effort after giving up 134 points in Tuesday’s loss, per Kendra Andrews of ESPN. “It has to come from within,” Green said. “Defense is all about will, a want to defend. Defense isn’t fun. You’ve just got to do it if you want to win, and we haven’t.”
  • In an interview with Joseph Bien-Kahn of GQ, Clippers star Paul George talks about maturing as a player, his approach to pressure situations and the “guilt” he felt watching the Pacers break up after his devastating leg injury in 2014. As a native of Southern California, George also said, “A championship with the Clippers 100% will outweigh a championship being with the Lakers.” 

Warriors’ Myers On Payton, Wiseman, Trade, Buyout Market

Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers held a press conference on Monday following the four-team trade that saw Gary Payton II sent back to Golden State from Portland. The deal was held up for a few days as the Warriors considered their options, but it ultimately went through even though they failed Payton’s physical due to a core muscle injury.

The veteran guard will be reevaluated in one month and the team hopes he’ll be back before a potential playoff push, Myers told reporters, including Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). Regarding Payton’s injury, Myers added that “there are things I can’t say for legal reasons and HIPAA reasons,” tweets Mark Medina of

A formal league inquiry into the Trail Blazers‘ alleged failure to provide sufficient medical information is expected to be opened. Myers didn’t want to comment on the potential investigation.

Good question, but I don’t want to answer that. I can’t go down that road of accusations,” Myers said (Twitter link via Medina).

As far as why the process took a few days, Myers said the team was evaluating its options and wanted clarity on whether the trade could potentially be amended, which wasn’t possible after the deadline passed. He hopes to get a “fair” result from the investigation.

What do I want? Whatever the NBA says is fair,” Myers said, per Slater (Twitter video link).

Here’s more from Myers’ press conference:

  • Slater pointed out to Myers that Payton missed the first 35 games of the season after a long recovery following surgery, and when he returned he wasn’t always playing every day. Was that a red flag? “We looked at the fact that he started the night before against our team…I didn’t factor in the thought that he’d be out as long as he will be,” Myers replied (Twitter video link).
  • Myers said it was a difficult decision to deal way former No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman, who was sent to Detroit as part of the trade. He said it was a “tough, tough move to make,” adding that “he’s a great kid and did everything we asked him to do” (Twitter link via Medina).
  • The Warriors were still high on Wiseman’s long-term potential, but Myers believes he needs playing time to develop his skills, and that wasn’t happening on Golden State. He said the trade was “not an indictment of James” and “it’s a hard rotation to crack,” tweets Medina. Part of the reason the Warriors decided to go through with the trade was because they “didn’t see a path” for Wiseman to be successful if they rescinded the trade and brought him back, per ESPN’s Kendra Andrews (Twitter link).
  • Myers was asked if the Warriors would look to the buyout market to address frontcourt depth. “It doesn’t matter if he’s seven feet tall or eight feet tall. Any buyout conversation has to be done in collaboration with the coaching staff. Because why bring a player in if they’re not going to use him? But if there’s a player that the coaching staff and front office thinks can be helpful, then absolutely we’ll go target that guy,” Myers replied (Twitter video link courtesy of Slater).
  • When Slater asked Myers about the possibility of converting Anthony Lamb or Ty Jerome, both of whom are on two-way contracts, to a standard deal, Myers said a decision hasn’t been made yet. “I think we’ve gotta look and see whether it’s that or another player or whatever it might be and compare them. And say to Steve, ‘Hey, these are your options. Which player do you think helps us the most?’ And make that determination,” Myers said, adding that system fit would factor in as well.