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Gary Payton II trade goes through despite reported concerns over failed physical

The Blazers sent Payton to the Golden State Warriors just before the trade deadline, but a Warriors exam reportedly found an injury could sideline him for months.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A four-team trade that includes sending former Portland Trail Blazers defensive standout Gary Payton II to the Golden State Warriors has been completed, despite reports last week from The Athletic's Shams Charania that a failed physical exam was threatening to blow up the deal.

The Payton trade was the third and final move the Blazers made leading up to the NBA trade deadline at noon Thursday. Payton was sent to the Warriors in exchange for five second-round picks and forward Kevin Knox II, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski previously reported. The move was part of a larger multi-team deal from earlier in the day between the Warriors, Pistons and Hawks.

Payton was Portland's big free-agent signing this past season, but the 6-3 defensive wing played in only 15 games for the Blazers, averaging 4.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals in 17 minutes per game. He missed the first 35 games of the season while recovering from offseason abdominal surgery.

On Friday afternoon, Charania reported that an exam by the Warriors concluded that Payton's core muscle injury could keep him off the court for up to three months, though Larry Beil, news and sports anchor at KGO-TV in San Francisco, reported on Sunday afternoon that the Warriors were confident Payton would be able to play "well before" the 3-month estimate reported by Charania. On Monday, Warriors general manager Bob Myers said Payton would be re-evaluated in a month.

The failed physical came as a surprise to the Warriors during the team's intake process, Charania and Anthony Slater wrote in The Athletic, setting off behind-the-scenes discussions Friday about amending or reversing the trade deal.

Charania and Slater reported that Payton had been "playing through the pain" in Portland and that the Blazers training staff had pushed Payton to play and gave him Toradol shots — something that was not disclosed to the Warriors during negotiations, the duo reported. The Athletic on Sunday afternoon walked back the claim that Payton had received Toradol injections, reporting that a source clarified that Payton actually took Toradol in pill form for pain management, but did not receive injections.

The difference between oral administration of Toradol and injections is significant, according to longtime NBA reporter Sean Highkin. "Toradol in pill form is much more common as a pain reliever and much lower-dosage than it is as a shot," Highkin reported Sunday.

The change The Athletic made to its story Sunday lined up with a claim made Saturday by Payton's agent, Aaron Goodwin, pushing back on the Toradol injections report. Chris Haynes, senior NBA insider for TNT & Bleacher Report, quoted Goodwin Saturday as saying "despite of what’s being reported, my client never took Toradol shots to be available for games during his time in Portland."

The news about Payton's injury broke shortly before a scheduled Friday afternoon news conference with Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin. When asked about the news, Cronin initially declined to comment, saying he had only just heard it himself.

When later asked about the specific allegation that the training staff had been pushing Payton to play through pain, Cronin said the team was confident Payton was healthy when he started playing and would not have cleared him to play if he had been at risk.

"You know, you trust that we did the right thing, and you trust that our process was correct, and these reports, I think if you knew our — the clearance process was proper, so I'll have to rely on that," he said.

Before Friday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups pushed back when asked about the allegation that Portland had pushed Payton to play through pain.

"I would never do that. I know how that feels. I would never push — we, not just myself — we would never push a guy to play," Billups said. "Whether it's medical, or a guy just doesn't feel like he can play that night with stress at home. I'd never push somebody to play, because I would always be scared of me doing that and then something actually happen. That's how I approach that."

On Saturday night, former Blazers wing Josh Hart, who had been traded Wednesday night to the New York Knicks, stayed at the podium following his postgame media availability and asked if he could say one more thing. He then gave an unprompted defense of the Blazers organization.

"I just wanted to say something and it's not about this game, not about the [Knicks] or anything like that," Hart said. "I just want to say Portland as an organization has been great. Joe Cronin's been great. That organization is nothing but a class act in the front office and the training room. I just want to say that the organization is respectful, a class act, did everything by the book."

During Saturday night's game between the Warriors and Lakers, in the midst of the trade saga, Payton attended the game in a Warriors sweatshirt and sat between Warriors general manager Bob Myers and vice president of basketball operations Mike Dunleavy Jr.

On Sunday afternoon, multiple sources, including Wojnarowski and Charania, reported that the deal would go through unaltered, although The Athletic also reported that the Warriors had filed a complaint about the Blazers with the NBA, prompting an investigation.

Wojnarowski reported further that the Warriors would "await an NBA inquiry into the Portland Trail Blazers' alleged failure to provide relevant pre-agreement medical information." He wrote that if the league finds evidence of wrongdoing by Portland, it could "cost the Blazers draft picks and fines and could results in re-examining the package of five second-round picks that the Warriors traded the Blazers to acquire Payton."

Trade details

Here are the details on the five second-round picks Portland received in Thursday's trade, courtesy of Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report:

  • 2023 from Atlanta (second-most favorable of ATL, CHA, BKN)
  • 2024 from Atlanta (must be between picks 31 and 55)
  • 2025 from Atlanta (must be between picks 31 and 40)
  • 2026 from Memphis via Golden State (top-42 protected)
  • 2028 from Golden State (unprotected)

The Blazers also received Knox in the trade, a 23-year-old, 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward. Knox is a former Top 10 pick from the 2018 NBA draft, the second such player acquired by the Blazers at this year's deadline. Like Cam Reddish, the other former Top 10 pick acquired by Portland last week, Knox has failed to live up to his lofty draft status.

In 254 career games, Knox has averaged 7.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 18.1 minutes per game, while shooting 37.9% from the field, 34.4% from the 3-point line and 71.1% from the free-throw line.

Earlier Thursday, the Blazers acquired Matisse Thybulle, a 6-5 defensive standout, for two second-round picks.

On Wednesday, the Blazers traded Hart to the New York Knicks for Reddish, a 2023 lottery-protected first-round pick from New York and two other players, one of whom was later moved to Charlotte as part of the Thybulle trade.

The Blazers waived forward Greg Brown III after the deadline passed to get their roster down to the maximum number of 15 players, according Haynes.

Blazers' deadline moves

OUT: Josh Hart, Gary Payton II, two second-round picks

IN: Cam Reddish, Matisse Thybulle, Ryan Arcidiacono, Kevin Knox II, five second-round draft picks, 2023 lottery-protected first round picks (or four second-round picks if it doesn't convey in 2023)

Updated Blazers roster

GUARDS (6): Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Shaedon Sharpe, Matisse Thybulle, Keon Johnson, Ryan Arcidiciano

FORWARDS (6): Jerami Grant, Justise Winslow, Nassir Little, Cam Reddish, Jabari Walker, Kevin Knox

CENTERS (3): Jusuf Nurkic, Drew Eubanks, Trendon Watford

TWO-WAY PLAYERS: Ibou Badji, John Butler

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