Game Thread: Payton to start for Warriors; Wiseman nearing return(?)
Warriors return to action against a new look Blazers team
Welcome back, Dub Nation! It was a whirlwind week off for the Golden State Warriors, so hopefully they’ve managed to fit in some rest and recuperation time to renew themselves for the final push into the postseason.
Tonight’s opponent, the Portland Trail Blazers are in full tank mode. You can call it a youth movement if you want, but trading away CJ McCollum, and bringing back injured Joe Ingles (out for the season) speaks for itself. It seems as if Portland has finally, begrudgingly accepted that their roster didn’t have a high enough ceiling as constructed. Damian Lillard underwent surgery in January to repair an unusual abdominal injury, but hasn’t played since mid-December and his return is uncertain. The other member of the team’s never-realized triumvirate, Nurkic, is out for at least a month. Those rumblings in Portland sound like a tank engine to me.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (42-17) at Portland Trail Blazers (25-34)
WHEN: Thursday, February 24, 2022 //7pm PDT
Catching up with the Warriors
There’s still no meaningful update on either Draymond Green or Andre Iguodala. Both are around team activities (though Green isn’t making the trip to Portland), but neither has taken part in practice or established a firm return date. Green is “hopeful” about returning in three to four weeks, and Iguodala is just on some sort of hiatus until further notice.
But James Wiseman may be another matter. After getting close to a return in December before undergoing a “clean up” knee surgery procedure, everyone seems cautious about time frames and updates. However, the next major phase (and the final one ahead of return) was a resumption of full contact practice. And it sounds like that happened yesterday:
Rumors suggest that the team is quietly targeting early next month, but whenever the exact date, Golden State will gladly accept the reinforcement whenever it arrives. The team has made no secret of planning around Wiseman’s return all season, but the December delay, and then Green going down have amplified the need.
Wiseman fills a need, both now, and in the future. But after a rocky start to his career it seems that the Warriors have used the time to reevaluate how to best use and develop Wiseman. Kerr spoke to Grant Liffman and Monte Poole recently, and you don’t need to read between the lines here, just read the lines themselves:
"[Wiseman's] taken a lot of heat & I think it's really unfair bc he's barely had a chance to develop, he hasn't played in summer league yet, he hasn't had a full training camp yet. So we threw him out there for 40 games last year...now was he ready for that? Probably not."
-Kerr, on Dubs Talk podcast
Tonight, coach Steve Kerr is going to be starting Gary Payton, who came up huge in limited minutes in the Warriors last game. Of course, the last time Kerr indicated a bench player (Kuminga) would start, it lasted all of one game. But listening to Kerr talk about it, one of the outcomes of some soul searching during the break was that “getting him more minutes right now is important. You can see the impact he had the other night.”
For the Blazers, watch out for Anfernee Simons. Just because the team has a bad record doesn’t mean they can’t be dangerous on any given night. In contrast to the Warriors sideways skid into the All Star break, Portland comes into tonight having won four straight prior to the break. Though they did that with Nurkic playing, it’s still a team that is going to come in gunning to prove that they can hang with a team like the Warriors.
Warriors come back refreshed and start off the final push with a win. Blazers cannot, in fact, hang with a team like the Warriors.