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Warriors won’t protest Payton trade after all

After filing a complaint and sparking a debate about training staffs, medical ethics, and oral vs. injectable painkillers, Gary Payton II got healthy and the Warriors decided to call the whole thing off.

Portland Trail Blazers v Golden State Warriors
NBA champion Gary Payton II should return to the Warriors soon.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

After filing a complaint with the league and forcing fans to learn about trade rules, physical exams, and the differences between oral Toradol and injectable Toradol, the Golden State Warriors have decided not to pursue their complaint against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Chris Haynes clearly knows that this news is disappointing, because in his tweet, he evokes the language of the most consistently disappointing and frustrating aspects of American professional sports: NFL instant replay. After Gary Payton II failed his physical, following a four-team deal, the Warriors went through with the trade but filed a complaint.

Warriors fans were all worked up about the medical malpractice of the Blazers’ medical staff, and their alleged history of deceiving other teams in trades. Blazers fans were outraged that anyone would suggest that the medical staff’s integrity was in question, because it’s very rare for players to get hurt there. Payton was reportedly unhappy in Portland, his agent reportedly contradicted the Warriors, and no one really had any idea what protesting the trade would do anything.

How did they work things out? Gary Payton II got healthy.

Suddenly, all is right again. The Warriors get back their beloved defensive specialist and fan favorite. The Blazers keep their five second-round picks and continue their recent embrace of tanking. Payton gets to never answer a question about Toradol again. Bob Myers doesn’t have to talk about this trade when he’s (maybe!) working for another team next year.

While the Warriors desperately need Payton’s defense, it was always clear that they couldn’t afford to cancel the deal. Swapping James Wiseman for Payton saved them $7 million in salaries and tax penalties this season, and $30 million next year. They abandoned a player who couldn’t get on the court in his third season, and in a relatively face-saving way.

So perhaps the protest came from legitimate anger at the Blazers’ purported deception, but perhaps the team preferred to talk about their issues with the deal rather than how they made a huge mistake with the No. 2 pick in 2020. It’s called being light years ahead.

It does seem like the Warriors may have gone ahead with the complaint if Payton was out all year, but at this point, they’ve cleared him to play - just like Portland did. It’s hard to argue that Portland grievously hurt them when Payton is playing the final seven games of the season. Arguing that the Blazers sold them damaged goods becomes untenable when the team is using the damaged goods as a defensive stopper off the bench.

What’s the main takeaway? That it will be nice to see Young Glove playing for the Warriors again. And it will be even nicer to stop arguing about medical treatments and trade rules and start arguing about what really matters: Is new Blazers mascot Douglas Fur a ripoff of old Sonics mascot Squatch?

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