May 29, 2024
Notes from the interview room as the Warriors cleaned out their Chase Center lockers

SAN FRANCISCO — Gary Payton II, the oft-injured defensive specialist, expressed an interest in ripping up his current agreement with his employer and starting fresh with a newer, longer deal.

In his preferred posture — sitting on, not at the podium — Payton said he sees himself as a big part of the Warriors’ mix next year at his postmortem exit interview.

“I hope so, yeah,” Payton said. “I would love to come back and run it back. Better yet, just redo my whole deal and stay here for a little bit longer. We’ll figure it out.”

Payton has a $9.1 million player option that anyone in his position would be happy to exercise. But there’s a possibility a longer term deal could give him more financial stability and be a relief for an organization trying to dip under the luxury tax.

Payton played just 44 of 83 possible games this year. He dealt with a pair of calf injuries, a hamstring strain and various other illnesses and ailments. He’s managed to be available for 66 of 124 total games since Golden State re-acquired him at last year’s trade deadline.

“It was a rocky season,” Payton said. “It’s been that way for the last two seasons. Just go back to the drawing board this summer, tighten it, tune it a little bit tighter, and just kind of more bulletproof my body, take some different routes and just try to get it stronger, better, last longer.”

A player on a $9.1 million expiring contract is typically the type that can get moved in a trade. But if he’s amenable to extending, the Warriors might be able to lock him up on a cheaper deal that gives him more security — something along the lines of three-years for $12 million, for example.

Either way, Payton, 31, seems determined to be in the mix with the Warriors next year.

“Yeah, we’re going to figure it out,” Payton said. “If we can redo it and get it done, that would be great. But right now this moment, take some time and let this ease out. But definitely for sure figure it out. For sure.”

There will be a Year 20 for Chris Paul…but probably not with the Warriors

Chris Paul intends to continue his storied, 19-year NBA career. And it’s quite possible his one season with the Warriors sticks out as an outlier mercenary season on his Basketball Reference page.

But that doesn’t mean he didn’t enjoy his time with the Warriors. He relished the opportunity to grow close with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. He enjoyed being close to his family in Los Angeles and appreciated the Warriors organization allowing him to spend extra time with them.

“It was a unique experience,” Paul said. “I’m glad I got an opportunity to play with the guys that I did, get a chance to meet new people, play for an organization I never would have imagined I’d play for. But I’m grateful for the experience.

For the first time in 14 years, Paul missed the playoffs.

“A little bit of a longer break than usual, but it is what it is,” Paul said.

Golden State Warrior’s Chris Paul speaks at Chase Center in San Francisco, Calif., Wednesday, April 17, 2024, one day after the team ended their season in a 118-94 loss to Sacramento. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

Paul said he’s open to a Warriors return for next year, but even Steve Kerr admitted that the Warriors aren’t the best roster fit for Paul. Paul still believes he’s a starting-caliber point guard. The Warriors can only really use him as Steph Curry’s backup. It’s tough for Golden State to play him, Curry and Klay Thompson together.

After managing Paul’s minutes throughout the season to keep him fresh, the Warriors only played him 18 minutes in their do-or-die game in Sacramento.

Paul turns 39 this May. His $30 million contract for next year is non-guaranteed, meaning the Warriors can either let him walk for luxury tax relief, re-sign him at that number, extend him, trade him. There are lots of avenues for the club to pursue.

Letting Paul become a free agent is probably the most likely scenario. Then Paul’s next season will depend on what he prioritizes. He’ll likely want to be close to his family, a bigger role and a chance to compete for the Larry O’Brien Trophy that has eluded him.

“Any situation I go into, I’m all in,” Paul said. “It was like that in Houston. It was like that in OKC. I think a lot of times people talk about that season in OKC we weren’t going, but I’ve always tried to make an impact wherever I was. We came up short here this year, but I’m excited about the summer and getting back to work and seeing what’s what.”

Kuminga is extension-eligible

Somehow, some way, Jonathan Kuminga didn’t know that this is a summer in which he could ink a nine-figure contract.

“I didn’t even think of that,” Kuminga said. “That’s just something, I think, my agent will be working on. I’m just going to focus on my mental, my body. Everything will handle itself.”

Asked if staying with the Warriors long-term is a priority, Kuminga said “I love it here.”

The most Golden State can offer Kuminga in an extension is five years for $225 million. Despite taking significant strides this year, Kuminga hasn’t played his way nearly into that ballpark.

Jaden McDaniels got a five-year, $131 million rookie extension. Although McDaniels is a much better defender than Kuminga, that could be a decent comparison in terms of figures.

The Warriors don’t need to extend Kuminga just because he’s eligible. They’ll be able to match any offer sheet when he’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year and could wait to see how he develops in 2024-25.

Rooks hitting Sin City

The Warriors are planning to send both Trayce Jackson-Davis and Brandin Podziemski to Las Vegas for the Summer League.

Both players have a good shot to be on an All-Rookie team this year, meaning they’ll be among the most talented and established players in the exhibition games.

“It’s an opportunity for me and him to lead a team, to be the best players out there, to lead other guys who are new coming in or played on our G League squad for us,” Podziemski said.

“And win. I think it’s super critical for Mike (Dunleavy) and Steve (Kerr) to see the leadership that me and him can provide. For me, it’s an opportunity to show them what I can do with the ball in my hands. Obviously, that sample size was minimal because we had Steph and Chris, but I just think it’ll be a huge opportunity for me.”

Jackson-Davis, who starred in the second half as a starter next to Draymond Green, said his offseason goals include stretching out his jump shot, building muscle and improving on guarding smaller opponents on switches.

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Podziemski said his role on the team will naturally increase next year, and the key for him and the other group of young players will be to take the burden off Steph Curry and Green. Podziemski will need to maintain efficiency while increasing his volume of shots.

Could be an uncomfortable summer for Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins described his individual season as “not too good, not great.”

Wiggins picked it up in the second half, after he returned from a brief departure for personal reasons, but still finished with career-lows in points, assists, and steals per game. He was far from the two-way star who helped the Warriors win their fourth title of the decade in 2022.

Wiggins has three years and $85 million remaining on his contract. He’s been traded before, and has dealt with seeing his name in trade rumors many times. Those might resurface for him again this summer.

“I mean, I take care of what I can take care of,” Wiggins said. “What’s out of my control, I don’t worry about it. All I can do is work hard, train hard, and do what I can do.”