Several Warriors veterans were available for free agency as the team approached the offseason following its fourth title in eight years. Re-signing Gary Payton II and Kevon Looney, who played crucial roles in their most recent championship, was a high priority.
While Looney inked on the dotted line, Payton took off for the Portland Trail Blazers after receiving an offer that the Warriors simply couldn’t refuse. Payton signed a three-year contract with the Blazers for more than $26 million.
They couldn’t have come up with a better backup plan than what they did two days later. Donte DiVincenzo was persuaded to sign with the Warriors by Warriors stars Steph Curry and Draymond Green. There was no point in telling him anything else. In a two-year, $9.3 million deal, DiVincenzo has a player option for the second year.
It didn’t take long for people to start drawing parallels between DiVincenzo and Payton. As a result, his signing was seen as a direct Payton replacement. That was never, however, how he saw things.
Ahead of Wednesday’s game against Payton and the Blazers, DiVincenzo boasted, “He did it all last year, they won the championship” at a Warriors shootaround. “He played a crucial part in what they accomplished last year. When I enter a situation, I don’t immediately start comparing it to others.
“I see us as complementary rather than interchangeable; we each bring something unique to the table. They play on opposing sides. In the second unit, he was surrounded by seasoned veterans.”
While Steve Kerr has started both Donte DiVincenzo and Elfrid Payton in games, the two players normally come off the bench. Otto Porter Jr. (then 28), Damion Lee (then 29), Juan Toscano-Anderson (then 28), Nemanja Bjelica (then 33), and Andre Iguodala (then 38) were all veterans on the team last year alongside Payton.
To yet, Iguodala has appeared in only three games this year. Only 32-year-old JaMychal Green is a veteran, and he’s missed 20 games due to injury, illness, and DNPs. The other two starters are the up-and-down DiVincenzo and Jordan Poole, 23. (Did Not Play).
Aside from them, all of the players are 21 or younger, with only one seeing regular playing time after the situation was initially reversed. Although both DiVincenzo and Payton are outstanding defenders, Payton has the edge when healthy.
Compared to Payton, who played the dunker role for the Warriors at 6-foot-2 despite improving as a 3-point shooter as well, DiVincenzo is more of a pure guard and scoring threat. Both players have an eye for boards, and their adaptability makes them ideal for the Warriors’ needs.
Putting aside any potential parallels, DiVincenzo spoke highly of Payton’s game and, more importantly, his journey. He is well aware of the contributions Payton made to the Warriors’ triumph and is motivated to replicate those results.
The Warriors will play Payton for the first time since he left in free agency on Wednesday night, and it should be a good indication of the value each player brings to his team. DiVincenzo insisted that the flowers be delivered to the man.
“The way he took Portland to where it is now is incredible. Starting out in the G League and working your way up to a rotation spot with the Warriors, then making an impact in the playoffs while earning a salary and a chance to do it all over again with this team—what that’s we call dedication.
You owe him flowers; he deserves all the respect in the world, and his bearing alone is impressive. On Wednesday night, the Warriors team and coaching staff will present GP2 with a bouquet of flowers to show their appreciation for all he has done. The Warriors’ desperate need for a victory in Rose City means that will have to wait for a few hours.