Why GP2 dubs Warriors' latest title as 'inevitable' destiny originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Gary Payton II was a critical part of the Warriors' latest championship run.
On a recent episode of the "Truth and Basketball" podcast, Payton was asked by Hall of Fame coach George Karl to name the biggest reason why Golden State are reigning NBA champions.
In Payton's eyes, it was only a matter of time.
"We just fought all year," Payton said. "We had ups and downs, but fought. When the time was right, we made a push and we had the right people leading us that's been through it all. I think it was just inevitable."
Entering the 2021-22 NBA season, Payton's role on the Warriors was far from guaranteed. He won the training-camp battle to claim to 15th spot on Golden State's roster, and carved out a bigger role as the season progressed. Payton went from playing 6.2 minutes per game in October to 21.3 minutes per contest in April, establishing himself as the Warriors' best perimeter defender.
While Steph Curry and Draymond Green missed time with injuries over the second half of the regular season and Klay Thompson worked to return to form, Payton provided Golden State with immeasurable energy on both sides of the court.
"Nobody believed in this team this year, especially what happened in their past years, what they've been going through," Payton said. "Having guys out -- [Curry] out, Draymond, Klay was out for two seasons. I think all that just came in at the right time. We had a group of guys that bought in, that trusted one another, that believed in one another, that wanted the best for one another. The staff was amazing."
Payton suffered an elbow injury in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Memphis Grizzlies. Golden State greatly missed the 6-foot-3 guard but fought past the Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks to return to the NBA Finals.
RELATED: GP2 praises Steph for leadership, being 'hell of a human being'
After a 10-game absence, Payton was back on the floor for Game 2 of the NBA Finals. In the final five games of the series, Payton averaged 7.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 18.5 minutes per contest, helping Curry, Thompson and Green march to their fourth career championship parade.
"It was just time for them to come back and get on top, especially with Klay and the Big Three coming back," Payton said.
Payton won't be joining Golden State in its quest for a title repeat, as he signed a three-year deal with the Portland Trail Blazers in free agency but Dub Nation will always be grateful for Young Glove's championship contributions.