Gary Payton II has become a fan favorite in his first full season with the Warriors, writes Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. Some of the affection stems from his Oakland roots and some can be explained by the years-long struggle he had to make the league before earning a roster spot with Golden State.
Payton received a thunderous ovation when he entered Sunday’s Game 2, playing for the first time since fracturing his left elbow in the second-round series against Memphis. He consistently provides energy off the bench and fans have responded, putting him in the top five among team jersey sales since the playoffs began.
“So hard to make this league in general,” Stephen Curry said, “but even harder (to be an) NBA player’s son trying to follow in the dad’s footsteps. It’s a different challenge and journey for him coming out of college, trying to find his way, G League, training camp offers, bouncing around the league, all over the place, then finally finding a home. … I think he was on two-way last year. He was available but not really. Then knowing he could really help us this year, he’s actually proven to be an amazing difference-maker. I think fans really resonate with that.”
There’s more on the Warriors:
- Curry is quickly shedding his reputation as a poor defender, according to Connor Letourneau of The San Francisco Chronicle, adding that opponents are finding it harder to attack him on pick-and-rolls. “Teams used to try to call Steph into every action, and just try to pick on him, but that doesn’t work anymore,” Draymond Green said. “He’s able to hold his ground, so you’re not able to bump him off his spot, and that’s been huge for us. I’m not shocked he’s playing that type of defense.”
- Klay Thompson has been watching online videos of his past highlights in an effort to break out of his shooting slump, Letourneau states in a mailbag column. Thompson shot just 4-of-19 in Game 2 and was 1-of-8 from three-point range. Letourneau expects coach Steve Kerr to run some early pick-and-roll action for Thompson tonight, noting that he was the team’s most efficient scorer from that set this season.
- Former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel and assistant David Fizdale could be candidates to join Kerr’s staff next season, Letourneau adds in the same piece. The Warriors are already losing Mike Brown to Sacramento, and Kenny Atkinson is one of the finalists to be the next head coach in Charlotte.
- Payton, Andre Iguodala and Otto Porter Jr., who were all listed as questionable, will be able to play tonight, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic.