The Golden State Warriors are getting a key contributor back for the start of NBA Finals. Defensive stalwart Gary Payton II has been progressing well following the fractured elbow he suffered against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals in May, and is on track to be available for Game 1 on Thursday night, according to Shams Charania.
Payton suffered the injury when he was knocked out of the air by Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks during an attempt at the rim. Payton fell and landed awkwardly on his elbow. Brooks was immediately ejected and suspended a subsequent game for the foul. The Warriors were able to advance past the Grizzlies, and then the Dallas Mavericks, without him, but Payton's return will obviously be a big boost for the Warriors, especially on the defensive end of the floor, as he has established himself as one of the league's better perimeter defenders.
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In addition to Payton, the Warriors could also get veteran forward Andre Iguodala back at some point during the NBA Finals. Iguodala hasn't played since the first round of the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets as he continues to deal with a disc injury in his neck, but Golden State is reportedly hopeful that he'll be able to return during the Finals.
The Warriors are making their sixth Finals appearance in the last eight seasons. They are the first team to accomplish that feat since the Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen-led Chicago Bulls of the 1990s. Winning their fourth ring under coach Steve Kerr against a tough Boston Celtics team won't be an easy task, though, so they could use any help they can get. Getting both Payton and Iguodala back would be a big boon for Golden State.