GP2 sensed different vibe from Warriors after mid-season return originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Gary Payton II couldn’t help but notice a different vibe with the Warriors after returning to the team in a mid-season trade.
After winning a championship with Golden State last season, Payton signed a three-year, $28 million free-agent contract with the Portland Trail Blazers on June 30. The scrappy two-way guard then returned to the Warriors in a mid-season three-team trade that sent center James Wiseman to the Detroit Pistons, providing Golden State with a boost defensively after Payton eventually recovered from a core muscle injury.
In speaking to reporters Saturday after the Warriors‘ season-ending loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals, Payton revealed that, upon returning to the organization in early February, he could sense the vibe surrounding the 2022-23 team was different than the team he won a championship with just eight months prior.
“I came back, you know, the guys are the guys,” Payton said. “Everybody goes through stuff in life, their everyday stuff. I just try to come back and be myself, talk to guys, hang with guys, laugh with guys. The vibe was a little different, obviously.
“Just coming back from the beginning of the season and all that. When I got here, everybody was themselves. It was just trying to figure it out and continue to do what we had to do the rest of the season.”
Payton was asked about the Draymond Green-Jordan Poole punch incident before the start of the season, and what his view of the situation was from afar.
“It’s basketball. You know guys are competitive and have emotions, so things happen,” Payton explained. “I’ve had fights with my little brothers all the time. But at the end of the day, we’re brothers, and you learn from and grow from it and just be mature about it and continue to do what you need to do.”
Although he began the season with Portland, Payton maintained his affinity for the Warriors and the Bay Area, keeping up with how his former team was doing while staying in touch with his former teammates.
“Yeah, my heart’s always been here before I was even here and just growing up as a kid,” Payton explained. “It somehow, some way, always leads back to the Bay. I still was tapped in at the beginning of the year, making sure I’m checking on my guys, seeing how everybody was doing and seeing what was going on with the road wins, home wins.”
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Payton made his long-awaited season debut with the Warriors on March 26, providing an instant boost on both ends of the floor throughout the remaining seven regular-season games and Golden State’s shortened playoff run.
After a disappointing season, Payton and the Warriors will look to reset and re-establish the positive vibes from their championship run.