Gary Payton II Saga Offers More Questions Than Answers
What we know, and what we don't know, about why Payton has yet to make his Trail Blazers debut.
TUALATIN, Ore. — On Friday, the Trail Blazers play their final game of the calendar year of 2022 on the road against the Warriors. At some point during the evening, Gary Payton II will receive his championship ring for the pivotal role he played in Golden State's title run last spring.
Will it also be the night Payton makes his debut in a Blazers uniform? That part is still as up in the air as it's ever been.
The team announced the week before the start of training camp that Payton had undergone a core muscle surgery in July that would sideline him through training camp and the preseason, but that he'd be ready to return for the season opener. From there, it's been a steady stream of delays, two weeks at a time, without much concrete information.
The last official update from the team came on Nov. 18 and said Payton was experiencing "intermittent soreness" during his ramp-up and recovery, and would be re-evaluated again in two weeks.
Everything since then has been guesswork—for fans, media and even those within the organization.
"Everything is still pretty much the same," head coach Chauncey Billups said after practice on Tuesday. "We're just trying to keep him advancing to where we're comfortable enough to put him out there and know that he's not risking anything."
He was then asked about a recent report from Turner Sports/Bleacher Report's Chris Haynes that suggested Payton would return this week.
"That would be nice," Billups said. "I wish I could tell you that was true. I just don't know."
Billups' exchange with reporters on Wednesday was a little more telling.