PHILADELPHIA — A few injured Warriors are getting healthy in time for the stretch run.
Andrew Wiggins, who missed the Warriors’ win in Brooklyn after sustaining a foot sprain during the first half in Atlanta, is likely to return against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.
Golden State will have a different set of defensive challenges against the Sixers, who will be without Joel Embiid after he underwent corrective surgery on his meniscus for an injury sustained during the 76ers’ visit to San Francisco last week.
Gary Payton II, out for the last 14 games with a Grade 2 left hamstring strain, returned to practice on Tuesday at the historic Palestra gym at the University of Pennsylvania, and participated in all team activities. Though coach Steve Kerr said Payton won’t be available against the Sixers or on the back-to-back against the Indiana Pacers, he’s considered day-to-day and could return soon.
“We always love his energy,” Steph Curry said. “He’s getting close and it’s exciting to know what he brings our team so hopefully we can get him back as soon as possible… We’ve consistently been better on that end of the floor with defensive-minded guys who can change the game on that end. He can plug into any lineup, and that’s been a huge weakness of ours all year.”
Payton said he’s “trying to get his body back to normal as soon as possible,” but he’s spent most of this season overcoming injuries than on the floor. The 31-year-old has played in just 16 of the Warriors’ 47 games and played just two games between his calf strain and this latest hamstring strain. Rehabbing most of the year has taken a mental toll.
“Just watching, mentally, can’t do nothing,” Payton said of the challenge. “Just watching. I want to be out there. Going through rehab after another one is challenging mentally, but feel good.”
The defensive effort has improved since Draymond Green’s return from indefinite suspension on Jan. 15, but could use Payton’s point-of-attack defense off the bench. Payton said it’s been frustrating to watch and that he hopes to bring another level of aggression defensively when he returns.
“He’s really coming along well,” Kerr said.
Chris Paul, still wearing a splint on his left hand after having it surgically repaired on Jan. 8, was getting shots up after Warriors practice and running. His expected return date is still a ways away and he will be re-evaluated in another week.
“He’s getting a lot of work in and getting his conditioning up as best he can without actually being able to play,” Kerr said. “But Chris is in good spirits and it’s great to have him back with the team.”