After months of recovery from abdominal surgery, Portland Trail Blazers goaltender Gary Payton II made his season debut to great success Monday night against the Detroit Pistons. He played 13 minutes off the bench, registering seven points and four assists while mingling well with his teammates, especially rookie goalie Shaedon Sharpe.
The Trail Blazers won the game 135-106.
Afterwards, Payton was available to speak with members of the media about his recovery and debut.
On the recovery process
Frustrating. Frustrating. Period. Just frustration. I was just tired of watching all my guys there, and the only way for me to play and help is to go out there and play. So I think that was the biggest part of the frustration, it’s just that I can’t be there at that time, you know, just to help my team. But, now that I’m here, we had a great game. Especially in the second half. We were just flying everywhere, and I just think the energy is contagious and kept everyone going. Shaedon is taking over all the ground now, so I really like that about him, and, you know, just being disruptive. He has to stop making a lot of mistakes but he is doing a good job.
On Shaedon Sharpe
Everyone helps shape the young guys, but, especially in a game, things move too fast or they just pick up the speed of the game even more, and all they really need is someone just to guide them and, you know, just to talk to them. I got it growing up in this league and, you know, I passed it on naturally. But he listens and that’s one of the biggest things with him is that he’s coachable, so that’s going to help him along the way.
Subject to availability
Yeah, it’s more on CB (Chauncey Billups). I already told him that, you know, if you need me in situations, I don’t care for 12 minutes. If we have to do something at the end of games or whatever, let’s do it and get the win. I think we’re on the same page with that, as are the training staff. I’m not going to kill myself and I know they won’t let me kill myself, so I’m available.
Payton was a key defensive contributor for the Golden State Warriors during the 2021-22 NBA season. The Trail Blazers hope he can replicate that tenacity here in Portland and help lift the team to higher levels of success. He is off to a good start.