Golden State’s title defense turns out to be a Shonda Rhimes production. The plot twists are absurd and captivating.
The season started with a bang, exacerbated by an unprecedented video leak. Our seat belts weren’t even on yet.
Since then for the Warriors? A co-star who can’t play back-to-back. To be anointed the NBA’s Most Valuable Franchise. A losing streak of eight games. A mastery core that cannot end games. An injury streak for their franchise superstar. A two-way player charged with sexual assault in a civil trial. A random disease that destroyed another star. Your basketball ops boss may be leaving at the end of the season. A surprising five-game winning streak without two starters, including a buzzer-beater from an unlikely source. A staph infection to a role player. Break the attendance record for a game. Another injury break for their franchise superstar. Three teams in the division that made major additions at close. And now a failed medic threatens to void the one deal they made and ruin the return of a beloved role-player. We’re not even on the All-Star break yet.
If they somehow quiet Repeat, someone should write a book about all of this.
The latest gasping revelation, the trade that sent out former No.2 pick James Wiseman and brought back Gary Payton II, hangs in limbo due to a failed investigation into Payton. The core muscle injury that Payton underwent surgery during the offseason is still in poor shape. The Blazers reportedly shot him so he could play but didn’t tell the Warriors when the sides worked out the deal. Blazers general manager Joe Cronin said Payton, who has played in 14 of Portland’s last 17 games, was healthy and ready to play. But Warriors’ medical staff say he’s taking about three months to recover, sources say, so the defending champions are now weighing the decision of calling off the trade or accepting being caught off guard by Payton’s medics.
Payton reportedly wanted to leave Portland, which led to them selling the guard they signed last offseason to a three-year, $26 million deal. But after the deal, Payton told several people associated with the Warriors that he was still not healthy, and one reason he was happy to be back with the Warriors was because he assigned their medical staff to those of Portland preferred. But his prognosis puts the Warriors in a difficult position.
If the Warriors go through with the trade, they may not get Payton until the middle of the playoffs, which start in about two months. So the critical addition to the rotation that the warriors anticipated when they sacrificed Wiseman does not yield an immediate return. With any complications, Payton may not be available at any time this season.
If the Warriors don’t make the deal – which ended up being filed as a four-team deal – Saddiq Bey would return to Detroit, Kevin Knox and the second-round picks would go back to Atlanta, and Payton would go back to Portland. And Wiseman would return to the Golden State. After living under a veil of disappointment for the better part of three seasons, clearly talented but too raw to thrive under the intense championship heat, he would be back under the care of the franchise that had abandoned him.
Yes, that’s right up there for Rhimes, the first African American woman to write and produce a Top 10 rated show on network television.
Either way, the Warriors are worse off for this season’s stretch run because they didn’t get the help they needed. So they’ll probably have to agree to the trade, much as it might burn them.
If it’s reasonable to expect Payton to be healthy going into the playoffs — and especially at any point before that — that would be more impactful than likely any player they can get in the buyout market. They’ve been through this before with Payton, and he was vital when he came back.
Of course, based on how this season has gone, Payton may not see the floor this year. Still, it might be worth the risk considering there’s no way to add someone remotely as good right now. Additionally, if Payton is out this season, he’ll have value next season should the Warriors lose Donte DiVincenzo in a free hand, which is likely the way he’s playing. And they would lower their tax bill this season by trading Wiseman for Payton.
Besides, it would be so incredibly embarrassing to bring Wiseman back. A consistent and universal theme of the Warriors is how much they like Wiseman as a person. He’s a good guy put in an almost impossible situation. From the NCAA investigation that cost him his college career, followed by the pandemic that skewed his draft process and training camp, to a knee injury that knocked him unconscious for his entire sophomore year, Wiseman almost never stood a chance . Perhaps some warriors would agree to the deal just to avoid Wiseman suffering the humiliation of returning.
There’s a universe where they could flip that, take it as a sign that he was meant to be a warrior, and base themselves on the return of Wiseman. But Kerry Washington is probably more likely to join Myers’ associates. Also, returning with Wiseman would be the $12 million salary on next season’s books and compound repeat tax.
If Wiseman previously struggled with confidence, what happens when he returns to the bottom of the Warriors bench right after being told he would finally get NBA minutes and freedom with the Pistons? If the Warriors stars were already frustrated at not getting proper help, what happens when Wiseman returns after the team finally decides to cash in one of their young chips?
The Warriors can still add a player with their last open roster slot. The buyout market numbers offer a few candidates. Adding a big man and Payton whenever that’s the case sometime this season sounds like the best the Warriors could hope for in the form of outside help. Unless the next plot twist somehow delivers something good.
(Photo: Soobum Im / Getty Images)
https://theathletic.com/4181357/2023/02/10/warriors-gary-payton-james-wiseman/ Thompson: In a season full of twists and turns, the Warriors face another with Gary Payton II