When word surfaced Tuesday night that the Warriors‘ newest starter, Gary Payton II, had fractured his left elbow trying to break his fall after a Flagrant 2 foul from Memphis’ Dillon Brooks, the assumption was Payton was done for the season. That may not be the case.
Though an MRI on Wednesday revealed Payton suffered ligament damage in addition to the fracture, Shams Charania reported that Payton is out for at least three weeks and “has not ruled out a return in the NBA Finals.”
Yahoo’s Chris Haynes also reported the timetable as three-to-five weeks.
Of course, the Warriors would have to make it to the Finals to even give Payton the chance to return. They’re currently tied 1-1 with the Grizzlies in the conference semis, and this series has all the makings of a long fight. Brooks’ reckless foul on Payton only upped the emotions involved.
“That wasn’t physical. That was dirty,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Brooks’ foul during a TNT interview between the first and second quarter. After the game, Kerr went after Brooks even more. “The line is pretty clear. You don’t hit a guy when he’s in midair, club him and break his elbow. That’s where the line is.”
No foul was called on the play, and the sequence was not reviewed. Green delivered double middle-fingers to the FedEx Forum crowd on his way to the locker room and returned to the floor to start the second quarter.
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The physicality of Game 2 was especially notable given what transpired in Sunday’s Game 1 when Green was ejected in the second quarter after a controversial Flagrant 2 foul on Brandon Clarke.
If the first two games are any indication, this is going to be an incredibly physical and fiery series. It will be up to both teams to make sure they maintain their cool with a trip to the Western Conference finals on the line.