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Gary Payton II to Make Trail Blazers Debut Monday vs. Pistons
Payton's long-delayed season debut appears to be imminent.
After weeks of delays, Gary Payton II appears on the verge of finally making his Trail Blazers debut.
For the first time, Payton was not on on the injury report the team released this afternoon ahead of Monday's game at home against the Detroit Pistons. He has been out all season after undergoing a core muscle surgery in July, which the Blazers disclosed in September.
The team appeared to confirm Payton's return on social media shortly after the injury report was submitted:
The team initially said Payton would be ready to return for the start of the regular season, but that date has been pushed back several times as he has navigated lingering soreness in his ramp-up. He returned to full-contact practice in recent weeks and head coach Chauncey Billups said last week that Payton would be fully cleared to play as soon as he felt ready. Billups has indicated that he will be on a minutes restriction initially.
Payton signed a three-year, $26.1 million contract with the Blazers in July after spending last season in Golden State, where he was a playoff starter during the Warriors' title run. One of the most disruptive on-ball defenders in the NBA, he should provide a significant boost on that end to a Blazers team that's currently in the bottom third of the league in defensive efficiency, allowing 115.3 points per 100 possessions per Cleaning the Glass.
Portland is getting Payton back at a good time. They've lost four of their last five games and currently sit at eighth place in the Western Conference with a 18-17 record. Following Monday's game against the Pistons, they head out on a three-game road swing to Minnesota, Indiana and Toronto before returning home for all but one of their remaining games in the month of January.
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